VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A local educator has been named a recipient of the national Milken Educator Award.

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The award, known as the “Oscars of Teaching,” recognizes excellence in education by honoring K-12 teachers, principals and specialists with $25,000 unrestricted awards.

Kimberly Collins, an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) coordinator at Virginia Beach Middle School (VBMS), was one of two people to receive the award in Virginia.

“What an honor this is for Ms. Collins and our division,” said Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) Superintendent Aaron Spence. “In addition to her exceptional instructional skill set, she understands the importance of building relationships with her students, of establishing a mutual trust between them, and providing a safe, inclusive learning space for everyone.”

Collins is VBMS’ first AVID coordinator and has been an educator for nearly ten years. In her role, she works to help prepare students for college and beyond.

“Kimberly Collins prioritizes her students’ needs and creatively adapts her teaching strategies to accommodate them,” said Stephanie Bishop, vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 2001 Milken Educator from Virginia. “Today we celebrate Kimberly, welcome her to our national Milken Educator Network and look forward to the value and insights she will bring to an outstanding group of the nation’s best educators.”

She is just one of 45 other Virginia teachers called Milken Educators since the state’s inception of the program in 1999.

In order to be selected, educators must meet the following criteria:

  • Exceptional educational talent as evidenced by effective and innovative instructional practices and student learning results in the classroom and school.
  • Exemplary educational accomplishments and leadership beyond the classroom that provide models of excellence for the profession.
  • Contributions to education that are largely unheralded yet worthy of the spotlight.
  • Strong long-range potential for professional and policy leadership early- to mid-career.
  • Engaging and inspiring presence that motivates and impacts students, colleagues and the community.

Collins was named a recipient during a ceremony on Thursday during Teacher Appreciation Week.

“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week than to honor an outstanding Virginia teacher and join with her colleagues, principal, superintendent, school board members and students in celebrating her success and this wonderful recognition from the Milken Family Foundation,” Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said. “Kimberly makes a difference in the lives of her students every day. She epitomizes the selflessness, dedication, creativity and commitment to excellence of all of the Virginia teachers we celebrate and recognize this week.”

Collins earned a bachelor’s in K-8 education in 2009 from University of Maine at Farmington and a master’s in education in 2020 from Saint Joseph’s College.

In a video message, Oprah thanked “the most incredible educators around the country” and acknowledging her deep appreciation for the “tireless work” they do.

U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona said Milken Educators “personify excellence in education” and “inspire leadership and motivate students to excel.”

Previously, Recharta Walston was honored with the award in 2008 while she was a teacher at Seatack Elementary School.