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Alexandria City High School teacher Eva Irwin wins $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Alexandria City High School English teacher Eva Irwin was at a loss for words when her name was called and the packed gymnasium erupted in applause.

This afternoon at a school assembly, Irwin was recognized as a top-tier teacher and surprised with the $25,000 Milken Educator Award.

It’s the first time that an Alexandria City Public Schools teacher has won the award, which has been presented to approximately 3,000 other educators over the past 37 years. There is also no formal nominating process or application that goes into selecting recipients.

“As you can tell, I’m shaking,” Irwin told the audience of students, teachers and administrators. “This is the last thing I ever expected.”

An English teacher with more than 100 11th-grade students, Irwin said that she tries to get her students to feel ownership with their assignments.

“I don’t have any children on my own, so they really are like my kids,” Irwin later told reporters. “I really try with my students to have a lot of collaboration. My teaching style is very student-centered, so I really try to get them to feel like they have ownership over their learning offered a lot of choice and how they can you know, complete assignments based on their best learning modalities.”

Philanthropist Lowell Milken started the awards in 1987 to recognize early-to-mid-career teachers.

“You cannot apply for our award,” Milken told the audience in the ACHS gymnasium. “We find you.”

The event was also attended by Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons, Alexandria School Board Chair Michelle Rief and ACPS Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt.

Milken told Irwin that the funds will help her unleash her potential.

“As we unleash that additional potential, we are expecting even greater things of the future,” he said.

Irwin said that the money will pay for her $23,500 master’s degree in educational and instructional leadership from Virginia Tech.

When asked about how the recipients of the award are chosen, Milken said that the foundation works with state boards of education, and that names surface through other sources to the Milken Family Foundation.

“I’d love to tell you, but it’s a secret,” Milken told ALXnow. “I think that what we can identify with this group of nearly 3,000 is that they’re all strong instructional leaders. They’re also powerful mentors for other teachers and they’re invested in their communities.”

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