OMAHA, Neb. -- Lisa Moody, a special education teacher at Jefferson Elementary in Omaha, received the surprise of a lifetime when she was presented with a national Milken Educator Award Friday morning at a schoolwide assembly of cheering students, colleagues, local and state dignitaries, and the media.

The national honor from Milken Family Foundation, is bestowed upon a select group of K-12 educators across the country for excellence in education, and includes an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize.

Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop, joined by Nebraska Deputy Commissioner of Education Dr. Deborah Frison, presented the Award, which has been hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching.”

“Today we celebrate and honor Lisa for her excellence in instruction and dedication to her students, school and community,” said Bishop, who herself is a 2001 Virginia Milken Educator. “Her innovative teaching and deep understanding and compassion for her students make a lasting impact in their lives and the lives of her colleagues. I welcome her to our Milken Educator Network and look forward to her contributions.”

Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The specific states and schools on this year’s winners’ list remain a closely guarded secret until each Award is announced.

“Lisa exemplifies what it means to provide opportunities for all children in Nebraska,” said Frison. “Her work in special education has changed lives, both of her students and all of the students in her school. She has done an outstanding job making sure every student receives the resources and sense of community they need to be successful and receive an excellent education.”

Since the initiative’s inception in 1987, more than $140 million in funding, including more than $73 million in individual Awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.

Moody becomes the 45th Nebraskan to win the award. Two Nebraska teachers, Kearney Public Schools' Michelle Fouts and Lyons-Decatur Northeast's Katie Mace, were surprised with the honor last year.