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NORMAN, Okla. – It was a sweet surprise for one local teacher who showed up to a school assembly – only to be surprised with $25,000.

The award was presented Tuesday morning at Madison Elementary in Norman by Lowell Milken, chairman of the Milken Family Foundation. Since 1987, he’s been traveling coast to coast surprising very special teachers with a very special award.

The award recipient is Hailey Couch, who is in her fourth year of teaching at Madison Elementary. She also spent two years teaching in Oklahoma City.

The award came as a complete surprise. Couch thought everyone was gathered to hear State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister speak.

“I’m very humbled and very gracious. This is unreal!” Couch said.

Milkin presents the prestigious award to young, promising educators to help further their work. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for Couch.

The 27-year-old and her husband are trying to save for their first house. At the same time, provide the best learning materials for her students.

“Babies, I love you, guys, and Mrs. Couch does everything that I can to make you feel safe, and make you feel loved and to just feel a part of our class family every day,” she said.

Couch is a leader and innovator in many ways – from revising the kindergarten report cards to even hosting observers from across the district, even across the world. She also took part in a teacher exchange program in China.

But, Milken said Couch’s qualifications go far beyond her accomplishments.

“I see someone who not only cares deeply about the children but is really a true leader to her peers,” he said.

A blessing for one teacher – that lifted the spirits of all those who love and support her.

“It felt really good,” said Legend, one of Couch’s kindergarten students.

News 4 tried asking Milken what the specific qualifications for the award are and how to nominate someone, but he said it’s all a secret.