Charter principal receives prestigious award

Principal Heather Efaw won a national Milken educator award, which includes a $25,000 cash prize. (Photo: Darren Svan/EdNews)

Wiping away tears of joy, an emotional Heather Efaw admitted that her Future Public School staff “kept a really good secret.”

Efaw, the school principal, received a prestigious surprise Thursday when she was presented with the Milken Educator Award, an honor recognizing outstanding dedication to excellence in education.

“We have the best, the brightest, the most passionate teachers and educators,” Efaw said after receiving the award.

The award includes a $25,000 cash prize that recipients may use however they choose. Efaw is the second and final Milken Educator awarded from Idaho this season, joining Kelly Sheridan of Idaho Falls who was surprised Wednesday.

Students performed for parents and dignitaries during a school-wide assembly Thursday at Future Public School in Garden City. (Photo: Darren Svan/EdNews)

Future charter has seen significant academic growth under her guidance, exceeding the state average on the Idaho Reading Indicator last year. Future outperformed the state average 67.6% to 65.7%. Students also did better on the Idaho Standards Achievement Test in both literacy and math.

The charter’s academic growth is attributed to Efaw’s effective implementation of curriculum resources, data review and analysis, classroom coaching, and content-specific professional development.

“Five years ago when I came to Future, I didn’t know that a school like this even existed,” she said, during an assembly in front of hundreds of cheering students, colleagues, educators and parents. “We have the most passionate teachers and educators in this building who are committed to making sure that you have a future of your choice.”

She received the honor from Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop, who was joined by Superintendent Debbie Critchfield, dignitaries and some former Idaho award recipients.

Critchfield said, “Not only is this excellence evident in the culture of trust and collaboration that Heather has clearly fostered in her school, it shows in the numbers. That her student body exceeds state averages in not only literacy, but also in math, is a demonstration of the achievement levels that are possible when a leader creates an environment where their teachers can teach to the best of their ability and their students can learn to the best of theirs.” 

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As an innovative leader, Efaw led the management of summer camps and tutoring programs , and she actively participates in the Noble School Leader Fellowship, a one-year principal professional development program. 

Her community Involvement is extensive: the Garden City Early Learning Collaborative; Cultivating Readers for Leaders; Girls on the Run; an advisory board member for the Idaho Way Collaborative; mentor with Teach for America Idaho, providing regular professional development and coaching for early-career teachers aspiring to become mentors themselves. 

Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the Milken award hopes to inspire young, capable people to pursue teaching as a career. The honorees attend an all-expenses-paid forum in Los Angeles this June, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken educators and other education leaders about how to broaden their impact on K-12 education.   

“Heather’s powerful leadership, commitment to the academic and personal growth of every student, and dedication to the community are just some of the ways she personifies a Milken educator,” said Bishop.

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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