For Immediate Release
November 19, 2013

Seventh-Grade English Teacher Named 2013 National Milken Educator

Surprise announcement recognizes teacher for her success as role model for students and peers

ELGIN – The Illinois State Board of Education and the Milken Family Foundation Tuesday named Melissa Leisner, a seventh-grade English and language arts teacher at Prairie Knolls Middle School in Elgin as the 2013 Illinois recipient of the Milken National Educator Award. State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch joined Superintendent Todd Stirn and Dr. Jane Foley, Senior Vice President of the Milken Educator Awards, to make the announcement at Prairie Knolls before students and teachers under the ruse of a state education presentation.

“I am very pleased to join the Milken Foundation in recognizing an exemplary Illinois’ teacher,” said Dr. Koch. “Melissa has repeatedly created and demonstrated innovative teaching strategies that can be successfully adjusted to meet individual student needs. She is an outstanding role model and mentor for her students and her colleagues.”

Now in her 15th year of teaching, Ms. Leisner started at Prairie Knolls in Central Community Unit District 301 in 200. Ms. Leisner is described by administrators as a teacher who builds relationships with her students and encourages their feedback so that she can better support them. During her time outside the classroom, Ms. Leisner takes classes, researches new instructional strategies, revamps lessons and reads novels so that she can recommend books to her students. Ms. Leisner never gives up and never stops working on improving her teaching to help students improve their learning.

“We are extremely proud of Ms. Leisner for being the recipient of this prestigious award. We are even more proud to be able to claim her as our very own, said Christopher Testone, principal of Prairie Knolls.  “Her approach is student centered and friendly; and her outgoing personality along with her caring attitude, make her a student and staff favorite. At Prairie Knolls Middle School, we believe in providing positive adult role models and supports for our students. Ms. Leisner is the epitome of this philosophy.”

The Milken National Educator Award is given annually to teachers demonstrating exemplary skills and a personal commitment to education. Each winner receives $25,000 from the Milken Family Foundation.

Since the program began in 1987, nearly 2,600 educators across the country have been awarded a total of more than $64 million in individual, unrestricted awards. Illinois joined the Milken Educator Awards program in 1988 and there have now been 112 Illinois Milken National Educators. Last year’s winner was Stephanie Hawkins, a second-grade teacher at Lynne Thigpen Elementary School in Joliet Public Schools District 86. For more information, visit


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