On the morning of Feb. 14, Connally High School faculty, staff and students, alongside school district, city and state representatives, witnessed one of their own—Kristina Carssow—receive a $25,000 National Milken Educator Award.

Carssow was the only Texas teacher and one of about 40 educators nationwide to receive the no-strings-attached cash prize.

Carssow has spent five years at Pflugerville ISD as a classroom teacher, lead teacher for Connally's Freshman Cornerstone Academy, and is now the master teacher for TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement.

She said the award represents a culmination of the hard work that fellow teachers and their students have put into making Connally High School a reputable school.

"Connally has worked so hard to get our kids to where they are. We have done so much, and to watch our kids succeed is the greatest gift of all," Carssow said.

Lowell Milken, co-founder of the Milken Foundation, said the Milken Educator Awards program is meant to advance inventive and effective ways of helping people help themselves and those around them lead productive and satisfying lives.

Milken and Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott presented the check to Carssow.

Carssow, Milken said, exemplified that mission through her commitment to quality teaching and training other teachers to teach effectively.

"She is a very powerful mentor and very strong in professional development. She has a great knowledge of teachers and is very invested in the community," Milken said. "She is literally changing people's lives."

Milken said Carssow was recognized not only because of her impact in a relatively short amount of time teaching but also because of her potential to do even greater things throughout her teaching career.

Pflugerville ISD Superintendent Charles Dupre and Connally High School Principal Daniel Garcia reiterated Carssow's dedication to serving the school by mentoring other teachers.

"She is one of those teachers who is there to help other teachers, and I think that's what makes an outstanding individual," Dupre said.

In addition to providing mentoring and training to other teachers, Carssow also prepares after-school tutoring labs in all subjects for freshmen. She also helps update the district's curriculum and serves on several district-level committees.

Carssow said she does not have any definite plans yet as to how she will use her award but is considering applying it towards getting a master's degree in education.

Connally High School is the only Texas school to have had two of its teachers recognized with the Milken Educator Award. The award, now in its 25th year, was awarded in 2000 to Joe Kieke, then the social studies chair at Connally.

The Milken Family Foundation was founded in 1987 and is considered the largest teacher recognition program in the country. It has given educators $63 million in awards over the years, including more than $1 million to 43 Texas educators.

Each year, recipients are considered for the Milken Educator Awards without their knowledge, by a blue-ribbon panel appointed by each state's department of education. Once selected, the recipients are surprised with the award at the school at which they teach.