A Desert Sand Unified School District High School teacher was surprised with a national award and $25,000.
Alexis Arias of Amistad High School in Indio could barely contain her tears after being named California's sole recipient of the Milken Educator Award.
“The moment I heard the name, it happened so fast, you kind of don’t know what to think, I for sure was in disbelief, not for a second thinking, this is real life,” Arias said.
She just like her students believed this morning's assembly would be like any other. But little by little, clues were revealed that they were to surprise a teacher with the prestigious honor.
“We come to the assembly, and when they start talking about a special teacher, and there's so many of us that I know, pour our hearts into this, so I was expecting to be someone else, you know, not necessarily me," Arias said.
Arias has been at Amistad High School for the last 8 years.
The school focuses on giving students a second chance to earn their high school diploma with students often overcoming adversity. Something Arias knows about first-hand.
In 2017, she was wounded by a gunshot during the Las Vegas Mass Shooting. She spoke with News Channel 3 just days after the shooting, while recovering in the hospital.
We caught up with Arias a year later after she returned to teaching.
“And so it taught me that I can have that resilience in my real life, and I can be a model of that in the classroom, and that I can see resilience in the students as well,” Arias said.
The Milken Family Foundation says the teachers are considered without their knowledge by a panel appointed by their state's department of education.
“She is not only a strong instructional leader, she is a powerful mentor to other teachers, and she's invested in this community in a very deep and abiding way,” said Lowell Milken, Chairman and Co-founder of Milken Family Foundation.
Richard Pimente, the school's principal, says he was also unaware of who was receiving the award, but isn’t surprised.
“And the first thing that they get in her classroom is we're gonna get through this, we're gonna get ahead and we're actually going to build your future,” Pimente said.
Arias says this is a full circle moment, this is the site of her former middle school. And as for her new cash prize of $25,000.
"Well, one thing, of course, I've got three kids at home. So that's definitely going to continue to support their academics and their extracurriculars that they're heavily involved in," Arias said.
This is the second educator from DSUSD who has received this award. The last one was in 1993.