Engineering Success is Elementary!

Virginia Fourth-Grade Teacher Lindsay Murray Earns $25,000 Milken Educator Award  

 Murray from W.E. Cundiff Elementary receives Award during surprise all-school assembly 

Santa Monica, Calif. (December 7, 2016)—You’re never too young to jumpstart a career in engineering. At least if you’re in fourth-grade teacher Lindsay Murray’s class at W.E. Cundiff Elementary School in Vinton, Virginia. Yet Murray had no knowledge that an all-school assembly was engineered in her honor until her name was called to accept the prestigious Milken Educator Award. Murray was recognized for her commitment to students, colleagues and the community as the newest recipient of the $25,000 cash award, hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching.”

Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley presented Murray with the Award, and was joined by Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Steven R. Staples.

“Science, technology and engineering are tools that unlock a student’s mind and future,” said Foley. “Lindsay Murray recognizes this important responsibility and inspires her students every day to develop the skills they need to help build the world and the life they want—no matter what challenges they may face.”

“Lindsay is a classroom innovator who challenges her students to be problem solvers and to excel in all of their subjects,” Staples said. “She has been recognized by her peers as an exceptional educator and as a leader since the beginning of her teaching career.”  

Always lending a helping hand while promoting hands-on learning, Lindsay Murray encourages her students to become productive problem-solvers. She blends STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) with project-based learning skills to meet and exceed state requirements and has even launched several student research projects to encourage more practical learning. Murray holds her students to high standards, pushing them to succeed in all academic areas while giving them the tools necessary to do so.

Whether for enrichment or remediation, Murray’s instruction is timely and specific to each child’s needs—an important skill set in a school where mainstreamed special education students make up a quarter of the student body at Cundiff, a pre-K‒5 Title I school.

Her influence is reflected in the school’s assessments: Cundiff students surpass state Standards of Learning (SOL) in both math and reading, with Murray’s students scoring 10-15% higher than school averages. Still, Murray makes it clear to students, families and colleagues that she considers test scores only one indicator of success, aiming to inspire lifelong learning in students.

Her expertise and influence extend statewide as well. Murray was instrumental in the implementation of the Virginia Children’s Engineering program, which is now part of the curriculum throughout the region’s elementary schools. She has presented at the state level on teaching engineering and science to children and serves on the district’s STEM committees, the Alternative Assessment Development Committee, the Committee for Creating Third Grade Alternate Science Assessment, Math Curriculum Writing Committee and the Community Advisory Committee.

At the school level, she has served as her grade-level chair since 2012, is the school’s science representative, and represents the faculty in Cundiff’s PTA. A skilled community relationship-builder, Murray regularly updates parents to keep them engaged in classroom activities. It’s part and parcel of a multi-pronged primary education strategy that’s truly engineered for success.

Murray earned a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary liberal studies in 2007 and a master’s in education (pre-K–6) in 2008 from James Madison University.

To learn more about Murray and to view photos and a video from today’s award assembly, visit

The 2016-17 season marks the 30th year of the Milken Educator Awards. Milken Educators are selected in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish. In addition to the $25,000 prize and public recognition, Murray’s honor includes membership in the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,700 top teachers, principals and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2016-17 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum this spring in New Orleans. Educators will have the opportunity to network with their new colleagues and hear from state and federal officials about the importance of maximizing their leadership roles to advance educator effectiveness.

More than $138 million in funding, including $68 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards program, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers. Many have gone on to earn advanced degrees and be placed in prominent posts and on state and national education committees.

The Awards alternate yearly between elementary and secondary educators. Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final approval by the Milken Family Foundation.

Past recipients have used their Awards to fund their children’s education or to further their own professional development. Others have financed dream field trips, established scholarships and even funded the adoption of children.

Regular updates on the surprise Milken Educator Award events are shared on MFF social media profiles at, and using the #MilkenAward hashtag. Details are also available on the Awards homepage at or can be obtained by calling MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards

The Milken Educator Awards, created by the Milken Family Foundation, is in its 30th year. The Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish.

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