ARLINGTON -- A North Texas teacher was recognized today with what some call the Oscar of Education, recognition and a big cash prize for excellence in teaching.

At a surprise school assembly at Arlington Collegiate High School, teacher Jennifer Fuller received the Milken Educator Award and a $25,000 cash prize.

"I just couldn't even believe it," said Fuller.

She was completely unaware that she had been nominated or selected. In fact, she admitted she had not even heard of the Milken Educator Award before today. It is an elite prize, given to just 45 teachers across the country every year. That makes it more exclusive than an Emmy, Grammy or even an Oscar.

She has been an English teacher for 15 years. The Texas native studied at the University of Texas and never thought she'd be a teacher, but she needed a job after graduating and tried the profession. She's never looked back.

She may use the $25,000 to travel, but she is firmly rooted in the classroom.

"Everyday, I try to make life better for my kids," said Fuller. "Teach them to really become strong people, become strong citizens, and learn to read and write a little better along the way."

Her students were thrilled to see their teacher recognized, and wrote her messages calling her a hero and a role model.

"She makes learning different. It's more like one-on-one," said a student, Ailynn Aguilar.