Helping focus students' career options lands teacher and two-time Eastern Michigan University graduate Nick Peruski a $25,000 Milken Educator Award

Michigan teacher, the sole honoree from the state in 2019, trains high schoolers to find the right future-job fit in his work at Lakeland High in White Lake

Nick Peruski with big check
Nick Peruski gets a hand with his oversized $25,000 Milken Educator Award check from colleagues and visitors. From left, Lakeland High School Principal Paul Gmelin (seated); Michigan Superintendent of Education Dr. Michael Rice; Huron Valley Schools District Superintendent Dr. Paul Salah; recipient Nick Peruski; and Greg Gallagher, senior program director for the Milken Family Foundation. (Photo Milken Family Foundation)

YPSILANTI – When it comes to the world of work, business and technology teacher Nick Peruski, a two-time graduate from Eastern Michigan University, is truly working it for his students at Lakeland High School in White Lake, Michigan.

In preparing students for career opportunities in business, marketing and other fields with an emphasis on non-college options, Peruski opens doors to the future with class field trips to companies in different industries.

He also prepares students with practice job interviews, resume-building tips and business-plan pointers. Beyond leading local field trips and out of state jaunts to New York and elsewhere, Peruski says he understands that young people will compete at a global level, having taught in China and presented at a professional conference in Lithuania. Students not only gain the benefit of a worldly voice close at hand, but have a strong advocate in their corner who supports their diverse backgrounds and interests.

But it was Peruski whose horizons expanded Friday, Dec. 6 at a surprise school assembly, where he was presented with a Milken Educator Award by Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher and Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Michael F. Rice.

Peruski was named a 2019-20 recipient of the national recognition, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. He is the only Milken Educator Award winner from Michigan this year, and is among up to 40 honorees for 2019-20. Peruski earned a bachelor’s degree in integrated science in 2010 and a master’s degree in instructional technology in 2015 from Eastern Michigan University.

The Milken Educator Awards, hailed by Teacher magazine as the “Oscars of Teaching” has been opening minds and shaping futures for over 30 years. Research shows teacher quality is the driving in-school factor behind student growth and achievement. The initiative not only aims to reward great teachers, but to celebrate, elevate and activate those innovators in the classroom who are guiding America’s next generation of leaders. Milken Educators believe, “The future belongs to the educated.”

Peruski is bringing that future closer for his students through his emphasis on career and technical education. Understanding that finding the right career is job-one for students and that not all good jobs today require a four-year college degree, Peruski's practical, real-world emphasis is embraced by many students who might otherwise struggle to find a place in the rapidly evolving job market of tomorrow.

"Nick Peruski knows and shows his pupils that success is a skill that can be learned," said Gallagher. "Building a better future one good job at a time, Peruski gives his students the practical knowhow and self-confidence to thrive and adapt to vocational and technological challenges. Nick's creative, adaptable methods and commitment to his students' needs is the kind of forward-looking dedication we seek in our Milken Educators.”

“Mr. Peruski is an innovator in collaborative teaching with students, parents, and the community,” said Rice. “He is a dynamic mentor and coach for both new teachers and veteran teachers. He connects students from classroom and global perspectives and loves his profession. His career is a case in point of why our best and brightest graduates should seek a career in teaching.”

"We are incredibly proud of Mr. Peruski,” said Dr. Paul Salah, Superintendent of Huron Valley Schools. “He represents all educators in Huron Valley Schools and is an example of what makes our community special. Mr. Peruski embodies our mission which is focused upon inspiring and building futures one student at a time. He deserves this award because of his relentless pursuit of excellence in education."

More information about Peruski, plus links to photos and a video from the assembly, can be found on the Milken Educator Awards website.

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, the honor includes membership in the National Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals, and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

In addition to participation in the Milken Educator Network, 2019-20 recipients will attend a Milken Educator Forum in Indianapolis from March 26-28, 2020 where they will network with their new colleagues and exchange ideas with state and federal leaders on the future of education. In addition, the Milken Educator Awards’ “Why Not Us” program will pair each 2019-20 recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor to explore and prepare for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy.

More than $140 million in funding, including $70 million in individual $25,000 awards, has been devoted to the overall Awards initiative, 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 Award is unique in that educators cannot apply for this recognition and do not even know they are under consideration. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then are reviewed by blue ribbon panels appointed by state departments of education. Those most exceptional are recommended for the Award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation.

The cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways; for instance, on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even on the adoption of children.

For more information, visit the Milken Awards website  or call MFF at (310) 570-4772.

About the Milken Educator Awards

The very first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. 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.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves nearly 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

December 11, 2019

Written by:
Miliken Family Foundation

Media Contact:
Geoff Larcom