Columbia Teacher Receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Jan 10, 2020

Information provided by the Milken Family Foundation

Oakland Middle School eighth grade math teacher Melissa Fike was presented the national Milken Educator Award today by Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher and Missouri Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Dr. Margie Vandeven. The recognition comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize for winners. Only one teacher from each participating state is selected to receive the Milken Educator Award each year.

The Milken Educator Awards are hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching.” Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America’s next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, “The future belongs to the educated.”

Fike is making that future a reality for students of all aptitudes and backgrounds. A caring educator who makes math proficiency exciting with her engaging personality, Fike goes the extra mile for students when they need a boost — challenging all students to meet and exceed their personal goals. Fike is a role model for students, a mentor for young teachers and a colleague who sees the big picture, as well as the small steps it takes to achieve lasting progress.

"Melissa Fike’s students enjoy and employ mathematics both as a practical matter and as an academic exploration," said Gallagher. "By providing the creative tools to assist in her pupils' math mastery, Fike lets students glimpse the myriad of possibilities that lie ahead. For her relentless dedication and uplifting spirit, we're proud to welcome Fike as a Milken Educator."

“We are thrilled that the Milken Family Foundation recognized Melissa with this award,” said Vandeven. “Her work in the classroom inspires both students and colleagues to perform at the highest levels, and she is a great representative of all Missouri teachers who give their students the best chances to succeed.”

“Ms. Fike lives and teaches resiliency every day,” said Superintendent Peter Stiepleman. “She firmly believes that every student can and will succeed. Her students feel valued and supported and that their progress matters, and we are so very fortunate to have such an amazing educator in Columbia Public Schools.”

Fike earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary math education in 2006 from the University of Missouri and a master’s degree in teaching and curriculum in 2013 from Northcentral University.

More information about Fike, plus links to photos and a video from today’s assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website at

About the Milken Educator Awards
Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, the honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals, and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2019-20 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis from March 26-28, 2020, where they will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal leaders on the future of education. In addition, the Milken Educator Awards’ “Why Not Us” program will pair each 2019-20 recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor to explore and prepare for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy.

Since launching in 1987, more than $140 million in funding, including $70 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Award is completely unique: Educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation.

The cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways; for instance, on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships and even on the adoption of children.

For more information, visit