Philadelphia teacher surprised with prestigious educator award

Alicia Vitarelli Image
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
VIDEO: Teacher honored with educator award
A very special teacher was presented with the prestigious Milken Educator Award.

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- All that was missing in South Philadelphia was an actual red carpet.

At Andrew Jackson Elementary School a very special teacher was presented with the prestigious Milken Educator Award, which is referred to as the "Oscars of Teaching."

It's an awards ceremony that played out just like Hollywood's biggest night. The only difference is the educator who won didn't even know she was nominated.

That teacher is Jayda Pugliese!

You could see the emotion and sheer shock on Pugliese's face when her name was called - tears streaming, hugs and kisses flowing, and students swarming like the media when the winner walks out on the red carpet.

Pugliese says, "What makes me so shocked is that it's like me winning an Oscar as a teacher."

Pugliese is a 5th-grade science and math teacher at Andrew Jackson. Her students were not surprised she was the winner.

One student telling us, "She's so cool and nice."

Her prestigious Milken Educator Award comes not only with honor and bragging rights, but a check too - $25,000.

And it may come as no surprise that she plans to spend it on education.

Pugliese had started her advanced degree at Holy Family University, but put it on hold when funds got tight.

"All of my money is going to be going to me finishing my doctorate," she explained.

Pugliese is going into her 9th year as a teacher. Born and raised in South Philadelphia, she's the first in her family to graduate both high school and college, and her speech was similar to one we might hear on Oscar night.

"I am so honored to be able to stand up here in front of you, and just tell you to take your education seriously. When you get older, things like this can happen to you," she told the students.

Pugliese is one of 35 winners across the country, and the first in Philadelphia in 9 years.

The Foundation Chairman Lowell Milken said we celebrate people in all sorts of careers and sports, but rarely honor the teachers who prepare them for success. And that's what this is all about.