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Two local teachers awarded with $25,000

A man smiles while being congratulated by a group of women.
Jacob Kostuchowski
Milken Educator Award recipient Jason Murray.

Two Washoe County teachers were awarded with the “Oscars of Teaching.” The honor includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize for their own use.

Teacher Liz Barnum couldn’t believe it when she was told she had earned the Milken Educator Award and $25,000.

The first person Barnum, a teacher at Katherine Dunn Elementary told, was her mom.

"Mom, I have news for you. I won $25,000 for being an amazing teacher," Barnum said in Spanish.

Barnum was one of two local teachers to receive the Milken Educator Award presented by the Milken Family Foundation to K-12 educators from around the country.

Six adults smile for a photograph.
Maria Palma
Milken Educator Award recipient Liz Barnum.

The other teacher, Jason Murray, learned he’d be receiving $25,000 during a Tuesday morning assembly at Florence Drake Elementary, where he teaches fourth grade.

Barnum and Murray were both caught by surprise during emotional all-school assemblies as students cheered.

Barnum has been teaching third grade at Katherine Dunn Elementary for seven years. She says she thought the ceremony was to meet Governor Lombardo.

“I just thought he was coming to greet our school and welcome us and kind of kick off his term,” Barnum said.

Governor Joe Lombardo, State Superintendent Jhone Ebert and Milken Awards founder Lowell Milken were all present during the event. Since 1987, nearly 3,000 awards have been given out, totaling $70 million. Milken Award recipients are also given access to networking and development tools throughout their careers in education.

Murray had no idea he’d be receiving the award.

Two men giving a speech
Jacob Kostuchowski
Lowell Milken and Jason Murray.

“I was shocked, if you saw my head, I just dropped it in disbelief. That's basically what I make in half a year. It's life changing. We just had a newborn so it couldn't come in a better time,” Murray said.

Barnum said she plans to enjoy the money with family.

“My immediate idea is to put some aside for my kids to go to college. And take them to Disneyland, because I've never been,” Barnum said.

KUNR's Jacob Kostuchowski contributed to this report.

Maria joined KUNR Public Radio in December 2022 as a staff reporter. She is interested in stories about underserved communities, immigration, arts and culture, entertainment, education and health.
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