Chinle Jr. High principal receives $25K Milken National Educator award

The Milken Family Foundation surprised Chinle Junior High School Principal Melissa Martin with the $25K Milken Educator Award April 25 in Chinle, Arizona. (Photo/OPVP)

The Milken Family Foundation surprised Chinle Junior High School Principal Melissa Martin with the $25K Milken Educator Award April 25 in Chinle, Arizona. (Photo/OPVP)

CHINLE, Ariz. — In a surprise school assembly April 25, Chinle Junior High School (CJHS) Principal Melissa Martin’s dedication to empowering Chinle students and colleagues alike was celebrated with a national Milken Educator Award — an honor that includes a $25,000 cash prize she can use however she wishes.

Martin knows the significant challenges her students face on the path to academic achievement because she was once where they are. Students in Chinle, where Martin herself graduated, travel up to 60 miles to attend school, and many live in homes without electricity or running water.

Now, the largest district in the Navajo Nation has risen to become the highest-performing reservation district in the state. Martin has been there every step of the way, first as teacher, then academic coach and now in her first year as CJHS principal.

When the award was presented by National Institute for Excellence in Teaching Co-President and COO Dr. Joshua Barnett — representing the Milken Family Foundation — and Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, the crowd of students, colleagues, state and local officials erupted in applause.

Martin is among more than 60 educators across the country to receive the award during the 2021-22 season and the first in the Chinle Unified School District (CUSD).

In addition to today’s celebration, Martin will join a national network of more than 2,800 Milken Educator Award recipients dedicated to strengthening excellence in K-12 education.

“Chinle Unified School District’s trajectory of growth is nothing less than extraordinary, and Melissa Martin and the talented faculty under her leadership have played an essential role in this success,” Barnett said. “Melissa’s experience as a strong, instructional leader — combined with her care and compassion for the community she so proudly serves — are inspiring and worthy of today’s national recognition.”

Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The Awards are not designated for lifetime achievement. Recipients are heralded while early to mid-career for what they have achieved — and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities inherent in the award.

“As a teacher, an academic coach, and a principal, Melissa Martin has excelled in every setting,” Hoffman said. “She has been a leader in a time that has been harder than any in our modern school system. We are proud and grateful for her commitment to this community, and to all of the kids and teachers she has impacted.”

Chinle Unified School District Superintendent Quincy Natay, who participated in the celebration, thanked the Milken Family Foundation for honoring the work of one of its talented and high potential young leaders.

“I welcome this opportunity to recognize not only Mrs. Martin for her much-deserved achievement, but also the phenomenal team of educators and staff that have supported her efforts,” Natay said. “This prestigious award that Mrs. Martin has earned is also continued evidence of the academic achievements CUSD students are capable of despite the many daily challenges they face. Congratulations, Mrs. Martin, well done!”

More information about the award can be found at or by calling the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772.

Donate to Report a Typo Contact
Most Read