PINE BLUFF, Ark. – One central Arkansas teacher has received the surprise of a lifetime with an unrestricted $25,000 cash award from the Milken Educator Foundation.

Pine Bluff High School art teacher Shalisha Thomas is overwhelmed with emotion the moment she is announced as the Milken Educator Award recipient.

Pine Bluff High School art teacher Shalisha Thomas was announced as this year’s 2019-2020 Milken Educator Award recipient.

Thomas received a roaring standing ovation from the hundreds of students, faculty, and staff that gathered in the gymnasium.

For years, the Milken Family Foundation Senior Program Director Greg Gallagher and Arkansas Department of Education Secretary Johnny Key have been recognizing the hard work and dedication of educators across the Natural State.

Gallagher says the public revealing of the winner is done specifically this way because it shows both the students and the community why being a teacher is important and should always be celebrated.

“Teaching is the most important profession,” says Gallagher. “It prepares us for every other profession out there and we’re hoping that the students that are out there seeing this will consider becoming educators themselves because we are short a lot of outstanding educators.”

Thomas received a roaring standing ovation from hundreds of students, faculty and staff as she walked up to accept her award and $25,000 check.

In addition to the cash prize and public recognition, Thomas is inducted into the National Milken Educator Network, which is a group of more than 2,800 top teachers, principals, and specialists dedicated to strengthening education.

Thomas is one of 39 teachers across the country and the only educator in Arkansas to receive the prestigious award.