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Alumna Elaine Hill ’17 wins $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Published on January 19, 2023

Alumna Elaine Hill ’17 wins $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Elaine Hill received the prestigious Milken Educator Award in a surprise assembly on Jan. 12 at Michael F. Wallace Middle School in Waterbury.

Eastern Connecticut State University alumna Elaine Hill ’17 was surprised with one of the nation’s most prestigious education awards, the Milken Educator Award, on Jan. 12 in a surprise assembly at her elementary school in Waterbury. The award includes a $25,000 check to spend however she chooses.

Hill is a fourth-grade teacher at the Academic Academy, a school-within-a-school for gifted students in fourth through eighth grade at Michael F. Wallace Middle School in Waterbury.

Up to 40 elementary school educators nationwide will receive the award during the 2022-23 school year. Hill will also have the opportunity to join the national Milken Educator Network, which includes more than 2,900 exceptional K-12 teachers and leaders. Honorees receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles for the Milken Educator Awards Forum this April.

“One of the primary qualities of a Milken educator is excellence in the classroom, and as a founding member of the Academic Academy with wraparound support, Elaine Hill's challenging programming and high expectations have helped students reach their greatest potential,” said Jane Foley, a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator and the Milken Educator Awards senior vice president.

In front of an energetic school assembly, Foley, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and Connecticut Commissioner of Education Charlene Russell-Tucker presented Hill with the prestigious award.

Elaine Hill
Elaine Hill '17 and her students react as she is announced as a recipient of the Milken Educator Award.

“I was in complete shock when the announcement was made,” said Hill. “The staff, students and I were not aware of the purpose of the assembly or what would be announced.”

Hill, a founding member of the Gifted Student Program at the academy, believes in laying an educational foundation conducive to student growth. “I approach teaching elementary school with the belief that all students must be supported, believed in, respected and held to the highest standards in order for them to reach their full potential,” she said.

Founded in 2019 by a team including Hill, the Academic Academy is a challenging full-day program for excelling students. This program includes after-school hours that keep most of Hill’s students with her until 4:50 p.m. four days a week. Hill’s students create communication devices during STEM lessons, write to pen pals in Texas to make connections with the world outside their community, and are among the district’s highest scorers on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, a system designed to support effective teaching.

“Since 2019, (the academy) has become a close family of teachers and students,” said Hill, who received a B.A. in history and social science from Eastern in 2017 and an M.A. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Saint Joseph in 2020.

Since the inception of the Milken Educator Award in 1987, the initiative has received more than $140 million in funding and provided more than $73 million in individual awards. The overall initiative includes impactful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.

Written by Noel Teter