MONTICELLO, Ark. (KTVE/KARD)–An exceptional Drew County teacher received the surprise of a lifetime with an unrestricted $25,000 Milken Educator Award on Thursday morning.

Emily Howard is a third-grade teacher at Drew Central Elementary where she creates a vibrant classroom community for students to build confidence and a passion for learning.

On February 23, Emily Howard’s own career skyrocketed to national recognition when she was surprised with a Milken Educator Award before dignitaries and the school community she proudly serves.

“I cannot believe this… This is wild,” explains Emily Howard.

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders and officials with the Department of Education joined in celebrating Howard, who is among up to 40 Milken Award recipients this school year.

“We have so many little pockets of the state that have amazing teachers and don’t get the recognition that they deserve. I’m so happy today to shine a light on one right here in southeast Arkansas,” said Venus Torrence with the Arkansas Department of Education.

Howard is the sole Arkansas educator to receive the Milken Educator Award for this season and the first recipient from Drew County in the award’s 35-year history.

In addition to today’s celebration, Howard will receive lifelong benefits as a member of the national Milken Educator Network, an influential group of more than 2,900 outstanding educators and leaders dedicated to strengthening K-12 education.