NORTH SCITUATE, R.I. (WPRI) — Ponaganset High School’s Jennifer Paolantonio helped put together a special assembly at her school on Thursday featuring a group dance about inclusion and acceptance. She even held up a banner as part of the performance.

Little did she know – she was the reason why the assembly was being held.

Paolantonio, a special education teacher, was named a 2019 Milken Educator of the Year and awarded $25,000. She is known as a champion of inclusion and helped draft a special pledge recited by PHS students and worked with the Special Olympics to create a full unified sports program.

Dr. Candice McQueen, CEO of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, and Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Angélica Infante-Green we both on hand to present the award.

“Jennifer Paolantonio is making excellence and inclusiveness an everyday expectation for her students and her school,” McQueen said. “Her dedication, visionary leadership and creative teaching make us proud to welcome her as a Milken educator.”

In the above video, see Paolantonio’s reaction to being named an Educator of the Year.