Bellefontaine Teacher Reaches “High Point” with First-Ever $25,000 Milken Educator Award at Ohio Hi-Point Career Center


National Award takes Ryan Gilbert by complete surprise and celebrates his dedication to providing innovative instruction



Santa Monica, Calif. (November 30, 2023) — At Ohio Hi-Point Career Center, 11th and 12th-grade English language arts teacher Ryan Gilbert finds innovative ways to engage students in the curriculum. Whether discussing “Beowulf” while playing the harp, guiding students through “TED Talks,” or giving students “voice” and “choice” in research projects, he encourages students to be active participants in their own education. Today, Gilbert’s outstanding efforts earned him the surprise of a lifetime: A Milken Educator Award, accompanied by a $25,000 financial prize he can use however he chooses.

Students, colleagues, dignitaries, and media gathered for what was initially thought to be an all-school assembly with Ohio Department of Education and Workforce Interim Director Jessica Voltolini. Then the event switched course, erupting into cheers when Voltolini welcomed Milken Educator Awards Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher to surprise Gilbert with the prestigious Award, recognizing his work as a model for the state and nation.

“Ryan Gilbert is inspiring his students to not only care about the curriculum but also to explore their passions and future endeavors through an academic lens,” said Gallagher. “Every day Ryan finds new ways to illustrate how his lessons will translate outside of the classroom and into life. I am thrilled to see how his zest for education will inspire the national Milken Educator Network moving forward. Congratulations, Ryan.”

Gilbert is one of up to 75 recipients across the country who will be honored in 2023-24 as part of the Milken Family Foundation’s Journey to the 3,000th Milken Educator. Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” 2023-24 will reach $75 million in individual financial prizes spanning the length of the initiative and more than $144 million invested in the Milken Educator Award national network overall, empowering recipients to “Celebrate, Elevate, and Activate” the K-12 profession and inspiring young, capable people to pursue teaching as a career.

“Ryan Gilbert helps students take ownership of their learning by creating engaging learning environments and meaningful experiences that allow them to discover their personal interests and passions, leading to potential career paths,” said Jessica Voltolini, Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce. “I am excited to congratulate Ryan on being named a Milken Educator Award recipient and applaud his work as a leader and mentor for students, colleagues, and the entire Ohio Hi-Point Career Center community.”

Milken Educator Award recipients are completely unaware of their candidacy for the Award. Recipients cannot apply; they are sought out while early to mid-career for what they have achieved – and for the promise of what they will accomplish given the resources and opportunities afforded by the Award. Gilbert is the first recipient at Ohio Hi-Point Career Center since the Awards’ creation in 1987.

Gilbert reacts to the award:

More About Ryan Gilbert

Providing Exciting Ways to Explore ELA: Gathered around a makeshift “fire” drawn on the whiteboard, 11th and 12th grade English language arts teacher Ryan Gilbert can be found playing the harp while sharing passages from “Beowulf” with his students. The infamous Honors English unit at Ohio Hi-Point Career Center is something students look forward to each year, as they dissect the symbolism in the epic poem while enjoying Gilbert’s music and indulging in food from that time. Gilbert engages students by highlighting different ELA skills in each class: On Mondays, students explore argumentative writing, Tuesdays are for general and creative writing practice, Wednesdays prompt short story workshops, and “TED Talk” Thursdays weave project presentations into the curriculum. To wrap up the week, Gilbert uses students’ varying interests as framework for “20% Time,” or “Genius Hour” Fridays.  Students choose what they study during these classes, researching and presenting on their respective subjects. Allowing students time to pursue their passions not only helps Gilbert increase engagement but also serves as an opportunity for students to identify areas of interest for possible future career paths.

Ohio Hi-Point’s Kelsey Webb had these comments about Gilbert:

Pursuing Excellence as a Leader: As the lead English instructor and new cybersecurity instructor, Gilbert works to expand College Credit Plus options at Ohio Hi-Point, creating and teaching his own creative writing elective after drawing from students’ interest in the subject. He utilizes structure from the nonprofit NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to encourage students to write novels, inspiring a love of writing among students so strong it yielded several published pieces and contest wins. Additionally, as an advisor for the National Technical Honor Society, Gilbert challenges students to push themselves academically and personally while celebrating their successes with family and community members.

Promoting Communication and Involvement: Gilbert acts as a schoolwide leader, lending his knowledge and positivity to several groups such as the local professional development and honored educator committees. As a Resident Educator Program mentor, he provides guidance and leadership to colleagues and new teachers as well as continuously strengthens his own craft. Gilbert has presented at the Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts and serves as the lead teacher for Ohio Hi-Point’s networking professional development at Sentinel Career Center. Gilbert also advises the drama club and helps build students’ public speaking and interview skills.

Education: Gilbert is a graduate of the University of Toledo, earning a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education in 2008.

More about the Milken Educator Award Journey: “The Future Belongs to the Educated”

  • The honorees attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles in June 2024, 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.
  • Honorees receive powerful mentorship opportunities for expanded leadership roles that strengthen education practice and policy. Milken Friends Forever (MFF) pairs a new recipient with a veteran Milken Educator mentor; the Expanding MFF Resource and Explorer Program fosters individual veteran Milken Educator partnerships around a specific topic area; and Activating Milken Educators (AME) promotes group collaboration in and across states to tackle pressing educational needs.
  • Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national, and international levels.
  • The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. Some recipients have spent the funds on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.

Board of Education President, Anne Reames talks about how honored the BOE is to have Gilbert on staff:

Follow the Milken Educator Awards tour and use the #MEA3K and #MilkenAward hashtags on Facebook (MilkenEducatorAwards)| X (Milken)| YouTube (MilkenAward)| Instagram (MilkenFamilyFdn)| LinkedIn (MilkenFamilyFdn)| TikTok (MilkenAward).

Visit or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772 for more information.

Milken Senior Program Director, Greg Gallagher had these words about the award:

About the Milken Educator Awards
The first Milken Educator Awards were presented by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987. Created by Lowell Milken, 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. The Milken Family Foundation celebrates more than 40 years of elevating education in America and around the world. Learn more at

To watch the video of the presentation click below…..