TAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News at 10) – “To be recognized in that capacity for something that I do just.. everyday? It’s just in me!”

Two Tampa Bay teachers are celebrating after being awarded and nationally recognized for their efforts in the classroom.

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“Basically, they call it the Oscars of teaching,” said Ashley Hernandez, a mathematics instructor at Riverview High School. She and first-grade teacher April Crisci of Springhill were surprised with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award.

“Oh my God. It was insane! Absolutely insane,” Hernandez recalls the moments leading up to the big reveal Tuesday. “Our administrator had told us the week before that they ‘got this email from the Department of Education. They want to showcase our school’. All 2,600 of us plus staff [gather] into the gym. I’m recording on my phone, ‘how cool! Pep rally after two years!’. And then, when she called my name you saw my reaction, like it still brings me to tears. It just was the most incredible moment of… my entire life. Don’t tell my husband.”

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Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop says “teachers like Ashley Hernandez have a special gift for making students feel heard and valued. Ashley is broadening her impact on students, peers and the community at large.”

“I really bring it all back to the relationships I have with my kids. They worked so hard for me and I feel like that’s because we get that trust,” said Hernandez.

Driving AP statistics with pass rates that have surpassed the state, Hernandez is among more than 60 educators nationwide who will receive the award this year. She’ll join the network of more than 2,800 educators across the country. She’s the first recipient from sarasota county schools since 2002.

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“My biggest piece of advice is to be reflective. Not everything that I do and teach work the first time,” she said for other teachers seeking advice. “Maybe rearrange my room differently. Always try to do something new. Don’t get stuck in that routine.”