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News Release - Denver teacher wins prestigious Milken Award

March 17, 2022

Denver teacher wins prestigious Milken Award

Gov. Polis and Commissioner Anthes honor role model for Latina students and first generation graduates at Northfield High School 

DENVER - Social studies teacher Reina Cruz won the $25,000 Milken Award today in a surprise ceremony at Northfield High School that was attended by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Education Commissioner Dr. Katy Anthes and Milken Family Foundation Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley.

“There is no more important job than educating our next generation of leaders, and I am proud to congratulate Reina Cruz on this stunning achievement. There are few professions as noble as teaching and education, and Colorado is so proud to have an educator like Ms. Cruz,” said Gov. Polis.

Cruz is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Colorado this year. She is among more than 60 educators nationwide who will receive the award during the 2021-22 school year. The last Denver Public Schools recipient was awarded in 2012.
“Through her instructional expertise and passion for uplifting her students, Reina Cruz has crafted a space where students feel confident to assert their identity while developing the tools to pursue future goals,” said Foley, who herself is a 1994 Milken Educator from Indiana. “I commend Reina for being a powerful advocate for her students, and proudly welcome her into the national Milken Educator Network.”

Commissioner Anthes echoed the thoughts, saying, “I’m so excited to celebrate Reina Cruz as a Milken Educator,” Anthes said. “Reina’s work to raise up student voices and support aspiring first-generation college students is inspiring. I can see why she is such an invaluable member of her school community, and I congratulate her on winning this exciting award.”

In Cruz’ classroom at Northfield, she helps students find their voices – and learn how to use them effectively. She empowers teens to play an active role in their education in her Student Voice and Leadership class, which focuses on elevating diverse student perspectives. This effort has led to administrators incorporating student input in decision-making. 

“Reina Cruz exemplifies what we all strive to do at Denver Public Schools, put students first,” said Denver Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero. “She meets students where they are and lifts them higher than they thought they could reach. She has created a safe space in her classroom where students feel comfortable taking educational risks, and she goes above and beyond to differentiate her instruction. I couldn’t be more proud of the work that Ms. Cruz does for our scholars and on behalf of all of Denver Public Schools, I congratulate her on receiving the Milken Educator Award.”

More information about Cruz, plus links to photos and a video from today’s assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website.

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, Cruz honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 education leaders.
For more information about the Milken Educator Awards, visit or call MFF at 310-570-4772.