Head of the Class

ACHS teacher Eva Irwin surprised with $25k Milken Educator Award.

Rumors were swirling as students and faculty at Alexandria City High School prepared for an assembly March 19 that ended with a surprise announcement that English teacher Eva Irwin was the recipient of a $25,000 Milken Educator Award, one of only 70 presented across the country.

“I had no idea,” said Irwin after being presented with what has been dubbed “the Oscar of teaching.”  

“I heard all sorts of crazy things, even that Denzel Washington was coming. No one knew.”

Milken Educator Awards founder Lowell Milken presented Irwin with the award along with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Lisa Coons in front of a gymnasium filled with cheering students, teachers and local dignitaries. The Award includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize that Irwin may use for any purpose.

ACHS students hold signs revealing the amount being presented to Eva Irwin as recipient of the Milken Educator Award March 19 at ACHS. 


“During her short time at Alexandria City High School, Eva Irwin’s dedication and leadership are commendable and making a positive impact on students, colleagues and the community,” Milken said. “We are proud to welcome Eva to the Milken Educator Network and look forward to seeing her accomplish even greater things in the future to advance educators and students.”

Prior to the surprise announcement, Milken addressed the assembly.

“I am here today because I believe that teachers and principals have the most important job in our country,” Milken said. “We ask them to prepare every one of you so that you can have a successful future. What could be more important than that?”

Irwin is the first Alexandria City Public Schools teacher to receive the Award and was unaware of her candidacy.

“I am truly honored that they see such potential in me,” Irwin said. “But this award could have gone to so many teachers at Alexandria City High School. We are truly blessed with the best staff in the state.” 

Irwin joins fellow Virginian Travis Dodds, a science teacher and department chair at Atlee High School in Mechanicsville, who received his Award earlier that day. Dodds was also first in his division – Hanover County Public Schools – to receive the Milken Educator Award.

“We are blessed with outstanding teachers in Virginia, and Eva Irwin at Alexandria City High School is one of the best in the nation,” Coons said. “It is great to see her receive the recognition she deserves and that we could all celebrate her achievement. She is a great representative for Virginia teachers across the Commonwealth.”

A relative newcomer to ACHS, her first year (2022-23) saw her impact contribute to notable student achievement growth in English and writing. Seventy-five percent of students passed the state English exam and 82 percent passed the state writing exam, both up from 68 percent in 2021-22 and above state and district rates.

Irwin also serves as the substitute assistant principal, the grade 11 English team professional learning community (PLC) lead, and the English department’s representative on the Staff Advisory Council. As an assistant coach, Irwin helped lead the varsity volleyball team to a state championship in 2022 and serves as the head coach for the junior varsity team. 

Irwin completed her Bachelor of Arts in child development and education at Washington and Jefferson College in 2014 and earned a Master of Arts in educational leadership and policy studies from Virginia Tech in 2021.

“Teachers play such a critical role yet we seldom give them the recognition, the honor and the celebration that they deserve,” Milken said. “The Milken Educator Awards were created to say that greatness in education should be recognized and celebrated.”

For more information, visit www.MilkenEducatorAwards.org or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772.