Connecticut Teacher Gets an A+ and $25,000

Imagine going to work on another ordinary day and getting a big honor from your boss -- with a huge check to go along with it! 

A Hamden teacher doesn't have to imagine it.

Monday started out as any normal day for first grade teacher Grace Griffin at the Church Street School.  The school had planned a morning assembly with visiting guest Mark McQuillan, the Commissioner for Education in Connecticut.

What Griffin did not know was that her first grade students and the other teachers were in on the "mystery" assembly.  As the assembly began, Griffin was unaware that she was the recipient of the "National Educator Award" from the Milken Family Foundation.

As the students performed the various parts of the assembly, Griffin sat on the back row of the bleachers with her fellow teachers. 

McQuillan helped a group of the students on stage spell out with placards the amount of $25,000.  Each number was on a separate card.  It was part of the suspense school administrators had dreamed up for the event.

As the final zero was hoisted into the air, a school administrator then announced Griffin as the winner of the national honor and the money that goes with it.  To a rousing round of applause from her students, teachers and administrators, Griffin made her way to the stage overcome with emotion.

"I want to thank you for this award," she said choking back tears. 

She went on to say that she was surprised:  "I had no idea.  If I had, I probably would have called out sick."  She added, "This is a little too much."

Griffin has been teaching for ten years.  She changed careers, she said, to help children.  Griffin was credited with developing a teaching plan that raised the proficiency of students in several areas.

Griffin expressed gratitude for what she called a generous gift.

"Thank you for recognizing teachers because they work hard and I believe they are the hardest working people out there," she said to thunderous applause.

The Milken Family Foundation will hand out more than 80 teacher awards in 2008, each carrying a $25,000 cash prize. 

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