EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee and Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green joined the Milken Family Foundation Tuesday to honor two Rhode Island educators.

This year’s Milken Award winners were also congratulated by Oprah Winfrey in a video message. She referred them as “light in this world” and went on to acknowledge her appreciation for the “tireless work” that teachers put in.

Nancie Lawrence, a reading specialist at Steere Farm Elementary School in Burrillville, was surprised during an assembly where she received a $25,000 award for her work.

“Honestly, I was just very shocked, honored. It was very unexpected,” Lawrence said. “I’m just at a loss for words. I’m very honored.”

Lawrence, formerly a third-grade teacher at the school, pushes her students to think critically and put in effort to see results, according to the presenters of the award. Her goal is to hold her students to high expectations while creating a comforting environment for learning.

“I just love working with the kids that I work with every day, the teachers that I work with are amazing. It’s just a group effort,” Lawrence added.

John Rosenbaum, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Segue Institute for Learning in Central Falls, was also surprised with a Milken Award on Tuesday.

“Outstanding teachers like John Rosenbaum ignite a passion for learning in their students and bring lessons to life,” Infante-Green said. “It is clear John has made a tremendous impact on his students and colleagues and I look forward to watching his passion and growth in the years ahead. His innovative practices and dedication will certainly inspire students and help them leap ahead in academic achievement.”

In addition to the $25,000 cash prize, Lawrence and Rosenbaum join a national network of more than 2,800 Milken educators.