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Pearsontown Elementary Principal Asia Cunningham Named Milken Educator

Asia Cunningham


Pearsontown Elementary School Principal Asia Cunningham received the $25,000 Milken Educator Award today for her educational leadership. A master educator and school leader, she’s led Pearsontown since 2021. The veteran educator took a leap of faith to take a pay cut and start her education career as a teacher assistant, staying true to a goal she had set early in life. She set out to become a principal after her parents died when she was a teenager, and she became her siblings' caretaker. She said she watched them struggle and was determined to help them through those struggles by teaching them how, which she said educators do. 


“I wanted to make sure my brother and sister had what they needed. I watched them struggle and I thought ‘If I just teach it to you this way. You’ve got it.’ If somebody just takes their time to work you through your struggle, you’ve got it,” said Cunningham.


Though her work is not for glory, and she is rewarded with daily hugs from her adoring students, she has been rewarded for her passion and competence. 


Cunningham is one of only two in North Carolina to have earned the award this year. 


“We are extremely proud of Ms. Cunningham’s accomplishment. She personifies what it means to ensure that our students are exposed to innovative, exceptional instruction, which is what the Milken award recognizes,” said Dr. Pascal Mubenga, DPS Superintendent.


The Milken Educator Awards were created by Lowell Milken in 1987 to publicly recognize excellence in teaching not only to inspire educators, but also students and communities to “Celebrate, Elevate, and Activate” the American K-12 teaching profession.  The award uplifts the fact that the quality of the teacher in the classroom is the No. 1 school-based factor for determining student performance.  A prestigious honor called “the Oscars of teaching”, honorees join the national Milken Educator Network, a group whose expertise is a valuable resource to those shaping the future of education. 


North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Catherine Truitt said, “It’s widely known the impact a principal makes on their school, and Ms. Cunningham has made a tremendous impact to say the least. She leads her staff by keeping students at the center of her work, creating a community of learners and leaders at Pearsontown. Her clear goals, collaboration, and accountability with her staff translates into student success for the whole child.”