Arizona Educator Surprised With $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Published: February 15th, 2017

(Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 15, 2017) – Principal Timothy Thomas at Rogers Ranch School in Laveen received the surprise of a lifetime when he was presented with the prestigious Milken Educator Award―and the $25,000 cash prize that accompanies it ―during a special assembly at his school today. Principal Thomas was awarded this honor in recognition of his exemplary achievements as an educator and leader, serving as a model for the profession.

“One of my favorite things to do as Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction is to help recognize truly remarkable and deserving educators like Timothy Thomas,” said Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas. “I am privileged to be able to witness what a respected leader he is for this school. There is no doubt that his students, teachers and the community benefit from his passion and knowledge.”

Gleaned from his experience as a master teacher, Thomas has developed a reputation as a “turnaround” expert for creating a supportive environment for teachers and students to thrive. Thomas took over as principal at Rogers Ranch School in 2013 when the school was reportedly facing challenges such as low student achievement, high staff turnover and discipline issues. Just one year later in 2014, the K-8 STEM school progressed from a “D” to a “B” in Arizona’s school grading system and teacher retention rates increased while staff, students and parents all sang Thomas’ praises.

“One of Mr. Thomas’ many great attributes is that he is always teaching, and he is always learning,” said Laveen Elementary School District Superintendent Dr. Bill Johnson. “Mr. Thomas is the instructional leader everyone hopes for in a school principal, and at the same time he is always growing, refining and improving. Staff and students readily strive to achieve the high expectations Mr. Thomas has for them, because they see that he holds himself to the highest standards.”

Before joining Rogers Ranch, Thomas led a similarly successful turnaround effort as principal of Cordova Middle School in Phoenix’s Alhambra Elementary School District. In Thomas’ first year, the school outperformed state and district averages in student achievement, led the district in student and teacher attendance and became Alhambra’s highest-achieving middle school.

Thomas graduated from Arizona State University in 2001 with a bachelor’s in elementary education, earning a master’s in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University in 2009. Thomas began his career teaching middle school math in 2002, developing an advanced math curriculum for his students. In addition, he established after-school outlets for students including tutoring, clubs and sports programs. An enormous proponent of STEM (science, technology, engineering and manthematics), Thomas partnered with a science museum and designed lessons for a new Saturday STEM program.

The Milken Educator Awards, created by the Milken Family Foundation, were launched in 1987. The Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish.

In Arizona, 37 recipients have been presented with a Milken Educator Award since 1998.

Photos and videos from Thomas’ event can be viewed at .

For information about the awards, visit