St. Charles Area Teacher Receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award

St. Charles Area Teacher Receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award


Today, Leah Lawrence, a seventh grade English Language Arts (ELA) teacher at Hardin Middle School in the City of St. Charles School District, was presented with the national Milken Educator Award.

For more than 35 years, the Milken Educator Awards have rewarded and inspired excellence in the world of education by honoring top educators around the country with a $25,000 unrestricted cash prize. The Milken Educator Awards are hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching.” The initiative aims to reward outstanding K-12 educators for the quality of their teaching, professional leadership, engagement with families and the community, and potential for even greater contributions to the healthy development of children.

“Leah Lawrence’s adaptability in the classroom is unmatched,” said Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop, who is also a 2001 Virginia Milken Educator. “Leah’s ever-evolving variety of instructional strategies serves her in providing high-quality, engaging instruction to meet student needs. I am confident that the opportunity to impart her knowledge and learn from other education leaders across the Milken Educator Network will continue to expand her already thriving growth mindset.”

“We are thrilled to have the Milken Family Foundation recognize one of Missouri’s exceptional teachers with this award,” said Commissioner of Education Dr. Margie Vandeven. “The hard work that Leah does every day to use both creativity and data to drive her instruction and help her students succeed is so exciting.”

Leah Lawrence

Lawrence fosters a classroom environment where students are highly engaged in their learning, work collaboratively with their classmates, and are able to assess their own learning. Through this and collecting achievement data from her students throughout the year, she is able to provide meaningful feedback to students to help improve their learning. Her students had the opportunity to learn about the writing process through the use of Play-Doh creations. Students created an object and then received feedback from their classmates on how to improve it moving forward. During this lesson, students walked through each step of the writing process in an environment where they weren’t afraid to make mistakes and have fun.

Lawrence serves as the ELA department chair for her school, works as a new teacher mentor, and serves on the school climate committee. These leadership positions provide her the opportunity to use many of her own classroom experiences to shape schoolwide lessons and help improve how the school functions. School leaders share that Lawrence is an invaluable asset to her team and colleagues. She is a teacher who advocates for students and designs innovative, creative, and engaging lessons to meet the academic needs of all her students.

Lawrence earned a bachelor’s in English education in 2007, a master’s in education in 2021, and an education specialist degree in school administration in 2016.

More information about Lawrence, plus photos and videos from today’s surprise assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website using the following link.

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 2,900 top teachers, principals, and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2023-24 honorees will attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles in June 2024, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education. In addition, they will learn about how to become involved in the Milken Friends Forever (MFFs) mentoring program, in which freshman Milken Educators receive personalized coaching and support from a Milken Educator veteran on ways to elevate their instructional practice and take an active role in educational leadership, policy, and practice. Honorees receive powerful mentorship opportunities for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. Milken Friends Forever (MFF) pairs a new recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor; the Expanding MFF Resource and Explorer Program fosters individual veteran Milken Educator partnerships around a specific topic area; and Activating Milken Educators (AME) promotes group collaboration in and across states to tackle pressing educational needs.

Since launching in 1987, 2023-24 will mark $75 million in individual financial prizes spanning the length of the initiative and more than $144 million invested in the Milken Educator Award national network overall, 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 will honor up to 75 recipients across the country in 2023-24 as part of the Milken Family Foundation’s Journey to the 3,000th Milken Educator. The 2023-24 Awards will mark $75 million in individual financial prizes spanning the length of the initiative and more than $144 million invested in the Milken Educator Award national network overall, empowering recipients to “Celebrate, Elevate, and Activate” the K-12 profession and inspiring young, capable people to pursue teaching as a career. Many recipients have gone on to earn advanced degrees and demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels.

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