Roanoke teacher receives national award

Published: Nov. 1, 2018 at 12:41 PM EDT
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Roanoke teacher Caroline Eschenbach had no idea she would receive a major award when she came to school Thursday morning, but that's exactly what happened during a surprise assembly

Eschenbach teaches reading to third-graders at Virginia Heights Elementary School.

This year, she's the only Virginia teacher to win the Milken Educator Award and the $25,000 prize that comes with it.

"My goal is to make a difference, whether it be in the life of one student or all," Eschenbach told reporters after the ceremony. "I just feel like when you walk in every day your goal should be to make an impact."

The $25,000 prize comes with no restrictions.

Eschenbach said she hopes to spend it on something related to reading.


Virginia Heights Elementary teacher Caroline Eschenbach received a $25,000 Milken Educator Award on Thursday during a surprise assembly at the school, according to a news release from the Virginia Department of Education.

The award was presented by Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane, Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and Milken Family Foundation Senior Vice President Jane Foley during the assembly, held in front of students and faculty.

Eschenbach is the reading teacher for all third graders at Virginia Heights. Her students consistently outperform their peers statewide in reading, the release stated. Last year, 57 percent of the school’s students were economically disadvantaged.

“Caroline Eschenbach finds a way to reach every student in her classroom,” Lane said in the release. “She weaves together rigorous content with deeply engaging activities, including fiction, nonfiction, current events, music and movement, to create reading instruction that is interesting and relevant to students. I am sure that she is one of the teachers her students will always remember.”

Eschenbach is the 45th Virginia educator and the second from Roanoke to receive a Milken award, the release said. Wade Whitehead, a fifth-grade teacher at Crystal Springs Elementary, received the award in 2000.

The award recognizes teachers, principals and other public school educators who promote excellence and innovation. Recipients are selected on the basis of multiple criteria related to instructional practice, leadership, student achievement and accomplishments outside the classroom.

Since the launch of the Milken Educator Awards in 1987, the Milken Family Foundation has distributed more than $68 million in awards to more than 2,700 educators across the country, the release stated, including $1.1 million in Virginia.