BLACKSBURG — Amber Dortch, principal at Hugo A. Owens Middle School in Chesapeake, Virginia, and a Virginia Tech doctoral student, assembled her faculty, staff and students for what she thought was a visit from state education official last Friday. She had no idea the assembly she was planning was an awards ceremony, and she was the honoree. 

Dortch was named a 2015 Milken Educator of the year, one of 40 nationwide. The award comes with an unrestricted cash prize of $25,000.

“Amber Dortch epitomizes the 21st-century instructional leader who inspires her teachers and equips them with the tools, strategies and data they need to improve outcomes for students,” said Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples at the award presentation.

The award was launched by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987 and has been called “the Oscars of teaching” by Teacher magazine. Since its inception, the program has honored more than 2,600 elementary and secondary school teachers, principals, and specialists. In addition to the cash awards, honorees are eligible for professional development opportunities throughout their careers.

Dortch, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in education at the Virginia Tech School of Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, has been principal at the middle school for two years. She earned a bachelor's degree from Longwood College and a master’s degree in educational policy, planning and leadership from the College of William and Mary.

To learn more about the award, visit the Milken Educator Awards webpage.