By Alex DeMetrick

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. (WJZ) — Teacher Magazine has dubbed it the “Oscars of Teaching.” This year, 35 Milken Family Foundation Awards are being given out across the country. One Maryland teacher had no idea it was coming.

All students and staff at Havre de Grace Elementary knew was that an assembly had been called. If they knew investor-turned-philanthropist Michael Milken was there, it might have been a clue.

Teacher Thomas Dennison didn’t catch it. That was the goal behind the assembly.

In this case, the secret was a $25,000 dollar award. It was a stunning surprise.

Dennison is one of 35 teachers nationwide to receive a Milken Family Foundation Award. A teacher for 14-years, he moved his family to Havre de Grace so his four children could go to school there.

His goal: “To be in these hallways for thirty years. To spend more time in this building than I will any other place in my entire life,” said Dennison.

There are no applications for this award. Instead, recommendations are compiled.

“We look for someone that has made a difference, that life ultimately revolves around their students,” said Michael Milken, Milken Family Foundation.

“It’s completely surreal. It’s insane. It’s a job that is not a job, it’s a life and it’s a service. And when you serve, you never expect to be given back to,” said Dennison.

When asked about how he intends to spend the $25,000 prize, Dennison says a big gift to his church and caring for his family.

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