SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) —  A Sioux Falls teacher is getting statewide recognition. George Hawkins is South Dakota’s teacher of the year. Hawkins has been an educator for 12 years and currently teaches social studies at Jefferson High School. However Mr.Hawkins not only is Sioux Falls’ teacher of the year, he is now South Dakota’s teacher of the year.

“I just had no words. It’s just extremely humbling and grateful. I know that in this district, in this building, there are amazing teachers everywhere, and in the state. The other finalists that I got to meet they’re awesome individuals,” said Hawkins, South Dakota’s teacher of the year.

He says the support from his school is overwhelming.

“I kind of like to stay back in the shadows and not necessarily get attention. So it’s kind of been a weird day. But it’s been really nice. Like all of the students would come up to me, ‘Hey, Mr. Hawkins, congrats!'” said Hawkins.

Jason Curri-Olson has taught beside Hawkins since even before they moved to Jefferson from New Technology High School.

“He walked in, incredibly capable, I think having the background that he has in law, and also just the personality and the persona that he carries into the classroom. He is so competent in his content,” said Jason Curri-Olson, a language arts and journalism teacher at Jefferson High School.

Project-based learning is a style Hawkins utilizes in his classroom.

“This allows us to really showcase something that we got going on that’s pretty good here at Jefferson and we have project-based learning. George has been a pioneer from the word go and project-based learning that started at New Tech High School,” said Ed Whiting, social studies department chair at Jefferson High School.

Hawkins is honored by the awards but says making students feel welcome is the best honor of them all.

“At the end of the day, I think about the teachers I had in high school. And I don’t necessarily remember the content. I remember how I felt in that classroom. And I knew that I belonged there,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins will represent South Dakota for the national Teacher of the Year award that will be announced next spring in Washington D.C. He also received $7,000 in total to present a series of professional development seminars to aspiring teachers.