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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Contact:Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106

Unsuspecting Hopedale Sixth Grade Teacher Surprised With $25,000 Award

HOPEDALE - A Hopedale elementary school teacher got an unexpected $25,000 bonus from education officials on Wednesday when he was lured into a school-wide assembly and learned he had received the 2004 Milken Family Foundation National Educator award.

Michael Aw was unaware he had even been recommended for the national award until his name was called out by Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll.

“We cannot have excellent schools without excellent teachers, and these two educators are two of our very best,” Driscoll said. “Their efforts in the classroom, and their commitment to their students is not only commendable, it’s awe-inspiring. Their leadership and dedication helps make our schools better every day for our children.”

Aw is one of 100 educators nationally receiving the Milken award, and one of two in Massachusetts. The second recipient is Holly Concannon, a fourth grade teacher at the Richard J. Murphy School in Dorchester. She was honored at her school earlier in the day.

Recipients each receive a check for $25,000 a trip to Washington, D.C. for a two-day conference and awards ceremony, and membership in a network of nearly 2,000 educators from around the nation who have received this award since it was first given in 1987. This is the eighth year Massachusetts has participated in the program.

When Aw emigrated to the United States from Burma at the age of 13 he could speak little English. But even at that age his commitment to education was clear: he made his way through the New York City public schools and went on to the State University of New York to be a teacher.

His colleagues described his classroom as “an exciting place to be,” and lauded Aw for his dedication to his students.

“Michael’s classroom is characterized by a high energy level…and high expectations for every child in the classroom,” wrote Principal Stephen Shaw. “Michael takes a personal interest in every student in his classroom and ensures that all of them have the opportunity and the means to succeed at the high levels he sets for all.”

Established in 1985, the Milken award is given annually to unsuspecting teachers, principals and educators from around the country. Known as “The Oscars of Teaching” the awards were created by the foundation as a way to reward, attract and retain top educators in the nation’s public schools.

The Massachusetts recipients were selected by an independent statewide Blue Ribbon panel of principals, teachers and other educators. Predetermined criteria for the award include exceptional educational talent and promise, skill in developing innovative and creative curricula and programs, commitment to professional development, and ability to instill self-confidence in students.

Brothers Lowell and Michael Milken established the Milken Family Foundation in 1982 to support education and health care nationwide. The educator recognition program is the largest in the United States.

“Improving American education strengthens the vitality of American democracy,” said Lowell Milken. “By shining a light on the excellence of these 100 educators, and the nearly 2,000 others we have honored over the past 18 years, we hope to show how crucial their efforts are to the goal of providing every child in America with the opportunity for a high quality education.”

For more information on the Milken National Educator Awards, check the Foundation’s Web site at

Last Updated: October 13, 2004
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