They caught the whole thing on camera.
Katherine Shaw, a kindergarten teacher at Washington Elementary in Bellflower, California, was awarded a prestigious Milken Award on Friday, earning $25,000 in cash and a coveted title given to less than 35 teachers across the country each year. Her win marks the first time an educator from the Bellflower Unified School District has received a Milken Award, according to a statement from the school.
To top it off, Shaw got the news in the middle of a school-wide assembly. You can watch how it played out in the video below:
At 10 a.m. Friday, Shaw led her students into the school's cafeteria, unaware of why the principal had called the last-minute assembly. Inside the cafeteria, students packed the floor, and several held up six cardboard signs, each with a number spelling out $-2-5-0-0-0. The teachers sat along the edge of the gym, phones out, recording, as California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson introduced a special guest.
It was Lowell Milken, co-founder of the Milken Family Foundation, which gives out the award.
"Someone must be getting an award," Shaw said she thought to herself.
"It gives me great pleasure to present the Milken Educator Award to a truly outstanding teacher," said Milken. "And that teacher is — Katherine Shaw!"
In the video, you can see students and teachers exploding with screams.
The camera pans to Shaw, who was pressing her hands to her face in disbelief. As students screamed and colleagues whipped out their iPhones to capture the moment, Shaw made her way to the stage looking elated but confused standing among a group of administrators in suits. They moved the giant $25,000 check in her direction, but she couldn't bring herself to hold it. She wiped away a tear before posing for the camera.
"I could think of many teachers that would — could receive this award as well," Shaw told KPCC in an interview later. "They just announced my name and it was extremely overwhelming and I was very honored."
The Milken Award has been referred to as the "Oscars of teaching" by educators and Teaching Magazine. In addition to the money, which winners can spend however they'd like, recipients receive membership in the National Milken Educator Network and a ticket to the Milken Educator Forum in New Orleans.
Shaw has been teaching for 16 years at Washington Elementary, having taught both second and sixth grades. She has also worked as an instructional language coach for the school's predominantly Hispanic students.
Shaw said the award represents to her a collaborative effort between herself and her colleagues. She said she loves everything about working at Washington Elementary.
"Coming to school and reaching the students and making them believe in themselves is truly what's the best part of coming to school every day," she said.
How does Shaw plan to spend the money? Probably a small vacation for her husband and kids, she said.