Gulfport teacher surprised with $25,000 prize

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS   (WLOX) - Teachers and students at Gulfport High School gathered in the school gym Wednesday morning, expecting to hear from the Mississippi Superintendent of Education. What they didn't know was that one of the teachers was about to win a lot of money. The prize was not just $2,500, but a whopping $25,000!

Then came the big announcement.

"The Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award goes to Scott Pfaff!" a representative announced as the crowd erupted in cheers.

Scott Pfaff's face lit up with surprise. He quickly stepped forward to claim his prize.

"I was trying to figure out how to keep my hands from shaking. Very nervous," said Pfaff.

The five-year Physics teacher is the only teacher from Mississippi to win the national "Milken Educator Award" this year.  You can't apply or be nominated for the award.

"Completely shocked," said Pfaff. "There are too many other great teachers at this school, and I know in the state that are far better than I."

"Scott, you're number one brother and we're proud of you," said Interim State Education Superintendent Dr. John Jordan.

"It's great to know that you have one of the greatest teachers in the country," said Gulfport School Superintendent Glen East. "He has a very calm demeanor. Very knowledgeable of his subject area, but has his way of working with children to pull out from them their strengths and their talents."

The Milken Award honors educators who represent excellence in the classroom and strive to shape young lives.

"The message we want to get to this young educator is we noticed your work, and we appreciate it," said Dr. Jane Foley, Senior Vice President of the Milken Family Foundation. "It goes to the unsung heroes that are out doing this amazing work."

"There's no better job in the world than being a teacher," said Pfaff.  "I come to work everyday with a smile on my face and love every minute of what I do."

The financial reward comes with no strings attached. Basically, Pfaff can use the entire amount as he pleases.

"It hasn't occurred to me what I can do with this money. I think the first thing I thought of was what can I get for my classroom that I don't already have?"

When asked if he has to consult with his wife, he smiled and said, "That would be prudent."

"He's an amazing teacher," said Gulfport High Senior Tevin Brown. "He comes to work everyday like he said with a smile on his face. He's willing to teach us and go beyond."

"And he is willing to stay until 5:30 at night," said another senior Molly Atherton. "He goes the extra mile just for us, so it's really awesome."

Pfaff will also receive an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles, CA, for an education forum next spring.  By the way, three other educators in the Gulfport School District have won the Milken award in years past.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.