Monday morning the Champlain Elementary School gym in Burlington erupted in applause.
In a surprise announcement, 5th grade teacher Matthew Hajdun was awarded 25-thousand dollars for demonstrating excellence in the classroom.
"It was a huge surprise and I really want to thank all of my colleagues," Hajdun said.
The Prize money comes from the Milken Family Foundation, an organization that supports innovations in education. This year it's honoring roughly 40 educators across the country with identical checks.
"Coming everyday and laughing and learning together is really an awesome thing and makes it all really worthwhile," Hajdun said.
Hajdun was praised for his energy and creativity with his students.
"He's really, really friendly and he loves to do things with us and he makes everything just so fun," said Emma Barker, a Champlain student.
The young educator was picked, in part, because of his strong instruction and student results. He's regularly using Spanish in the classroom. He received his check in blue jeans because a field trip to Shelburne Farms, to reinforce classroom learning, was originally on the schedule.
"Matt Hajdun is what every teacher aspires to be. He gives timeless energy to the school, to his children, to the staff, to the community," said Deborah Lefebvre, a fellow teacher at the school.
The 25 grand comes with no restrictions.
"He should do whatever he wants to with it because it is really his and he totally deserves it," Emma Barker said.
Hajdun hopes to use some of the money to help with a mortgage but also has plans to invest in his kids. "Mortgage is huge and I also like culture and bringing that into my classroom a lot, so hopefully having an opportunity to do some cultural exploring with that is pretty exciting," he said.
Nine Vermont teachers have won the Milken Education Award since 2005.
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