BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A Biloxi teacher received the surprise of her life Wednesday morning. She became the only educator in Mississippi to receive a prestigious national award this year. The award came with a large financial prize. Her name had been kept a secret until now.
A school assembly took on a suspenseful tone at North Bay Elementary in Biloxi. An executive from the Milken Family Foundation told the students, teachers, local and state dignitaries that she came all the way from California to share a secret.
"One of the best teachers in the entire country is here in your school," said Milken Family Foundation Senior V.P. Dr. Jane Foley.
Foley said that top teacher will receive a national award known as the "Oscars of Teaching" plus a lot of money. Foley asked several students to hold up signs that eventually showed the total amount: $25,000. Then, she made the surprise announcement.
"The Milken Educator Award goes to Cagney Weaver," Foley shouted.
The crowd cheered, and fourth grade teacher Cagney Weaver looked stunned as she heard her name.
"Oh, I couldn't believe it! My heart was pounding, and I realized it and I just started crying. It's a shock," said Weaver.
She became the first teacher in Biloxi to receive the Milken Educator Award. She has been teaching for only five years.
"She's exciting in the classroom. She's very innovative, but also, her students have great results. Her students achieve above the state averages," said Foley. "She's an unsung hero. This is not a lifetime achievement award. It predicts lifetime achievement. It goes to people we know have a potential to be in the profession for decades to come."
"She was really the best teacher, and she's really, really sweet to us. She's funny and everything," said fourth grader Alexis Lane.
"I started to cry. I was so happy for her. I was ready to hug her so tight," said fourth grader Mary Wright.
Weaver said her students and the national achievement make her job even more rewarding.
"For me, it definitely validates what I do. Someone recognized what I do enough and that's all that we can ask for as teachers. It makes a world of difference," said Weaver.
She doesn't know yet what she plans to do with her prize money. She said she'd like to throw a pizza party for her students. Weaver also thanked fellow teachers for their support.
"I work with some absolutely amazing teachers, and there are fabulous teachers all over the state who work harder than I do and put in more time than I do. I'm just very, very honored. It was very surreal," said Weaver.
Out of more than 3 million teachers nationwide, up to 40 will receive the Milken Educator Award this year.