HONOLULU (KHON) – A huge and unexpected honor for a Hawaii public school educator: Michelle Iwasaki of Kalihi Kai Elementary School is Hawaii’s sole recipient of this year’s Milken Educator Award.

Iwasaki, an academic coach of kindergarten, 1st and 5th grade teachers, is one of more than 60 educators nationwide to receive the prestigious honor.

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Governor David Ige and wife Dawn Ige were in attendance at Monday morning’s school assembly to surprise Iwasaki with the news.

The educator was recognized for her work in training and mentoring Kalihi Kai Elementary’s teachers in art integration strategies and through professional development.

“I’ve been at this school for 18 years,” Iwasaki said. “I’m just so proud to have been on our school’s journey for so many years. Anyone who works in education knows it takes a whole village to run a school.”

She receives a $25,000 cash prize, which Iwasaki could keep for herself.

Instead, she’s already thinking about how it could help the school.

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“I would love to give that back to the school,” she said. “There’s so many things that the kids need.”