Nevada Department of EducationNevada Department of Education

    Third Nevada Teacher Honored with National Milken Educator Awards and $25,000 Cash Prize

    Superintendent Ebert was joined by Lowell Milken to surprise a third Nevada teacher one day after two others awarded

    February 08, 2023

    CARSON CITY, Nev. - It was an assembly to remember for West Wendover Elementary School kindergarten teacher, Rejily Soriano, as she was surprised with a Milken Educator Award and its unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. There were lots of cheers and even a few happy tears as State Superintendent Jhone Ebert and Milken Educator Awards Founder Lowell Milken revealed the real reason for the assembly and presented her with a giant check.

    "As first a preschool teacher and now a kindergarten teacher, Ms. Soriano is ensuring our youngest learners have a strong foundation for future success," said State Superintendent Jhone Ebert. "I'm especially proud of the fact that she started her career in Elko County School District's "Grow your Own" teacher recruitment program and is now leading the way. She is a shining example of what an early learning teacher can be!"

    "The State of Nevada is lucky to have homegrown teachers like Rejily Soriano leading the way in our schools," said Governor Lombardo. "Soriano's passion for teaching is inspiring, and I thank her for her dedication to our students."

    The Milken Educator Award provides public recognition and unrestricted financial awards of $25,000 to outstanding K-12 teachers, principals, and specialists who are furthering excellence in education.

    "Early in her career, Rejily Soriano has established herself as a talented classroom teacher, school leader, and mentor," said Milken Educator Awards Founder Lowell Milken. "Her dedication, care, and compassion for her students and broader school community represent the qualities we seek in the profession. Our sincere appreciation to Rejily for instilling that same passion in others."

    More About Rejily Soriano

    Rejily Soriano holds high expectations for her kindergarteners at West Wendover Elementary. Soriano makes strong connections with her young learners, supporting them as they acquire new skills and grow both academically and socially throughout the year. Literacy plays a large part in her classroom. Soriano helps students create their own books, a favorite activity. Most of her students are reading by the end of each year, and in May 2022, 89% reached grade level or above on Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments in both math and English Language Arts (ELA).

    A teacher leader at West Wendover Elementary, Soriano is the school's Leader in Me coordinator, sits on the school improvement committee, and designs professional development for the building. She is the lead teacher for kindergarten, mentors new teachers, and is a leader for the school's social-emotional learning efforts.

    Soriano started her career in education in Elko County School District's "Grow Your Own" teacher recruitment program, working with preschool students in the Head Start program before moving up to kindergarten. She builds strong relationships with students and families and communicates with parents often in both English and Spanish, keeping an "open door" policy for discussions about all aspects of students' school experiences. Her unwavering dedication to her job and students is clear as she works towards successful outcomes for every child.

    Soriano is the third Nevada teacher to be honored with the recognition in just two days. Mr. Jason Murray, a third and fourth-grade teacher at Florence Drake Elementary School in Sparks, Nevada, and Ms. Liz Barnum, a third-grade teacher at Katherine Dunn Elementary School in Sparks, Nevada, were each honored at surprise celebrations at their schools one day earlier for the positive impact each teacher has made on students' lives and the culture, and climate of their schools.

    More About the Milken Educator Awards in Nevada: "The future belongs to the educated."

    Since the Milken Educator Award program began in Nevada, 91 educators have been recognized in the State and received a total of $2,275,000 in cash prizes.

    Along with the financial prize, recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,900 top teachers, principals, and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards, and others dedicated to excellence in education.

    The honorees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles in April 2023, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education.  In addition, they will learn about how to become involved in the Milken Friends Forever (MFF) mentoring program, in which new Milken Educators receive personalized coaching and support from a Milken Educator veteran on ways to elevate their instructional practice and take an active role in educational leadership, policy, and practice.

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    About the Nevada Department of Education

    The Nevada Department of Education (NDE) leads and collaborates with Nevada's 17 school districts and the State Public Charter School Authority to advance educational equity Statewide. With offices in Carson City and Las Vegas, NDE oversees all pre-K-12 education in the State, working to achieve its mission to improve student achievement and educator effectiveness by ensuring opportunities, facilitating learning, and promoting excellence. Under the leadership of the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction, NDE impacts the achievement of nearly half a million children and 30,000 educators. Learn more about NDE and join us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


    The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation 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. The initiative was created by the Milken Family Foundation, which celebrates 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at


    Elizabeth Callahan
    Public Information Officer