Alexandria English teacher wins ‘Oscars of teaching’

Alexandria English teacher wins ‘Oscars of teaching’

A packed gym erupted in cheers as an oversized check for $25,000 was presented to Eva Irwin, an Alexandria City High School teacher who is being recognized for her outstanding work teaching 10th and 11th graders.

Irwin is one of up to 75 teachers nationwide who will be awarded the prestigious Milken Educator Award this year. The awards are often referred to as the “Oscars of teaching.”

Philanthropist Lowell Milken called Irwin an “outstanding educator characterized by intelligence, commitment and dedication.”

He said while she was receiving the honor for her achievements thus far, he believes she has the potential to do even greater things in the future.

“Thank you for making education your chosen profession,” he told the surprised teacher.

“I’m so honored that they see such potential in me,” Irwin told WTOP. “But this could have gone to so many people at Alexandria City High School. We are truly blessed with some of the best staff in the state.”

Irwin has been teaching for a decade, and spent the past year and a half at ACHS — the largest high school in Virginia by the size of its student body. She teaches 10th grade honors and 11th grade standard English.

“My teaching style is very student-centered; I really try to get them to feel like they have ownership over their learning,” Irwin said of her students. “I don’t have any children of my own yet, so they really are like my kids. We build that relationship early on and that’s how I feel I can best inspire learning.”

Milken created the educator award initiative in 1987.

Nearly 3,000 teachers have received the award over the years but this is the first year an Alexandria City teacher has been selected.

Irwin was praised by the Milken Family Foundation for her innovative use of technology, including using platforms that offer translation services for school families who are not English proficient, and a tool that allows students to provide instant feedback during lessons. In 2022, her first year at ACHS, 75% of students passed the Virginia English exam, up from 68% the year before.

Irwin, who was unaware of her candidacy, said she will be using the money to pay off student loans for a master’s degree in educational leadership.

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Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin joined WTOP in 2021 as an anchor/reporter covering breaking news in the D.C. region. She has loved radio since she was a child and is thrilled to now be part of Washington’s top radio news station.

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