SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A social studies teacher at Washington High School got quite the surprise Wednesday during an all-school assembly. Alison Ter Horst is being honored with a Milken Educator Award and a $25,000 prize. She’s South Dakota’s only winner this year.

Disguised as an event kicking off a civics education initiative, the program got underway with a lot of fanfare. But after dancing around the surprise, it was time to reveal the true purpose of the get together — an assembly to honor teachers.

“Because they have the responsibility of preparing you for a bright future,” Jane Foley with the Milken Family Foundation said.

One in particular today, Alison Ter Horst, who had no idea what was coming… Foley had the privilege of giving away the Milken Educator Award. It’s known as the Oscar of teaching.

“The Milken Educator Award goes to Alison Ter Horst,” Foley said.

Ter Horst, blindsided by the announcement, came down to accept the award and it’s $25,000 prize in front of hundreds of cheering high school students.

“To say this was a surprise is an understatement,” Ter Horst said.

That’s because the winner thinks she’s surrounded by other excellent teachers at Washington. Ter Horst loves the profession so much, she helped create a Teacher Pathway program in the district.

“Teachers, they don’t get the recognition that they deserve. I teach a class for kids who want to become future teachers and every day I’m telling them that what they do is important. Becoming an educator is important,” Ter Horst said.

The pathway program helps aspiring teachers earn college credit as they explore all facets of teaching. Fitting from someone who’s admired by so many for her work ethic and connection with students.

“You are able to affect the lives of others and I’m just so humbled by today. Thank you so much. Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Ter Horst said.

From the bottom of her heart and now to the top of her profession.

You can’t apply or be nominated for the Milken Educator Award. The foundation finds you. If Ter Horst looks familiar, it’s because we’ve covered her before. Each year the teacher hosts a day of kindness at Washington known as Quinncidence Day. It’s in honor of her daughter who died in 2012.