COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — A Coventry High School teacher was overcome with emotion Thursday as she learned she was one of just 45 educators in the country to win a prestigious award.

In a ceremony Thursday inside the school’s gymnasium, English Language Arts teacher Lauren Hopkins was surprised with the 2017-18 Milken Educator Award and a $25,000 cash prize.

The award honors teachers, principals and specialists who are furthering excellence in education.

“I think that we have amazing kids who show us everyday that they appreciate us in all these little ways,” Hopkins said. “This happened to be an unbelievable, huge way to show and I’m so appreciative of them, that I get to spend my days with them.”

The entire staff and student body was on hand for the presentation, along with Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner.

“When I look at some of the top priorities we set for this school year – strong literacy instruction, developing career pathways through more personalized learning, shared school leadership – Lauren Hopkins is working to support these initiatives and more every single day at Coventry High School,” Wagner said in a statement. “Great learning requires great teaching, and Lauren is an example of the type of committed, compassionate educator it takes to bring out the best in our students. Congratulations to Lauren and to Coventry High School on this well-deserved recognition.”

Stressing her work with at-risk students, Milken Educator Awards Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley said Coventry’s graduation rate has risen 12 percent during Hopkins’ tenure.

Hopkins is the only recipient of the award in Rhode Island this year.

“While there are many educators in RI who were considered for this recognition and honor, I cannot think of a teacher who is more deserving,” Coventry Superintendent Craig Levis stated. “To all new teachers out there, I would say watch and listen to Lauren; see how she engages, prompts and challenges her students…feel her passion and commitment. This is the art of teaching.”