It was a life-changing shock for a Philadelphia teacher On Wednesday, as she was the surprise recipient of a $25-thousand Milken Educator Award.
For 30 years, the Milken Family Foundation has been awarding cash prizes to unsuspecting teachers across the country.
“We know that teachers are the single-most important school-related factor that determines how young people will do in school,” said Foundation co-chair Lowell Milken.
On this day, a fifth-grade math and science teacher at Jackson Elementary School in South Philly was singled out for a $25-thousand award.
Jayda Pugliese was just trying to keep her kids calm.
“All of my students kept looking at me and pointing to me, saying ‘you know, you’re probably the one!’ And I’m just, like, trying to hush them,” Pugliese said.
Then came the announcement.
“And that teacher is…Jayda Pugliese!”
A sobbing Pugliese was mobbed by her students. She already has plans for that $25,000.
“I’ve been pursuing my doctorate in education,” she said. “And I recently had to take some time off because I couldn’t afford to go to school anymore.”
Pugliese was the first in her family to graduate high school and college. She hopes to become a principal or a superintendent one day.
She’s the first of 35 educators to be honored by the Milken Family Foundation this year.