GRAFTON, N.D. -- Brittany Larson, a first-grade teacher, got the surprise of her professional life Tuesday at an assembly at Century Primary Elementary School in Grafton.

Larson, who has taught first grade for 10 years at the school, was presented the 2018-19 Milken Educator Award by a representative of the Milken Family Foundation.

She is one of 33 educators nationwide who are receiving the honor, which has been described as the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher magazine.

Larson is the only North Dakota teacher to receive the Milken Educator Award this season. None in Minnesota received it.

The honor, which includes a $25,000 award, is given to outstanding educators who may use the money any way they choose.

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The award recipient was a closely guarded secret until Greg Gallagher, senior program director with the Milken Family Foundation, based in California, made the announcement in the school gymnasium.

“It was amazing, crazy. It was fun,” said Larson, who looked a bit stunned after the event. “I’m still shaking.”

Other than paying off school loans, she wasn’t sure what she would do with the unexpected funds, she said.

The Grafton native said, each day, she loves to come to school where she calls her students “a classroom family.”

Her goal is to make sure students “know they are loved, they are safe, and they will be engaged throughout the day,” she said.

Knowing they are loved “is everything -- learning comes second,” she said. “They need the feeling of security. Otherwise they cannot focus.”

Larson also received the Outstanding Teacher Award from the Grafton Chamber of Commerce this year.