Piedmont native Lesley Snyder receives Milken Educator Award

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Uses “Passion Projects” to Inspire Students’ Education

Irmo, SC – Lesley Snyder, a Piedmont native who attended Wren Middle School and Wren High School before pursuing her undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of South Carolina, recently received a $25,000 Milken Educator Award.

Snyder, an eighth grade English teacher at Dutch Fork Middle School, received the award for her work encouraging student-led learning through “passion projects,” serving as a teacher mentor and school leader, and pushing her students to reach their full potential through a variety of educational opportunities.

Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop and South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman surprised Snyder with the honor before cheering students, colleagues, state and local officials, and the media. Snyder is among more than 60 educators nationwide to receive the recognition during the 2021-2022 school year and the only recipient in South Carolina.

Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” the Milken Educator Awards celebrate, elevate and activate the American teaching profession and inspire young, capable people to join it.
“Lesley’s belief in her students shows itself in everything she does. Because of this, she consistently graduates middle school students who are confident and ready to succeed in high school and beyond,” said Bishop, who herself is a 2001 Milken Educator from Virginia. “Her creative instruction and passion for diverse educational experiences are models for others to follow, and for that, we are pleased to honor her as a Milken Educator today.”

The Milken Educator Award is not a lifetime achievement honor. 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.

“Lesley Snyder is a fabulous educator who pours her heart into her students each day at Dutch Fork Middle School,” said Superintendent Spearman. “She is truly deserving of this honor and will stand as a shining example for educators across South Carolina. Thank you to the Milken Family Foundation for recognizing Lesley with this prestigious award.”

Along with the financial prize, Milken Educator Award recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education.

In June, the honorees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education.

The $25,000 cash award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. For instance, some have spent the funds on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.