LAS CRUCES, N.M. - A Deming sixth grade math teacher got the surprise of her lifetime Thursday.
The New Mexico Public Education Secretary and a representative from the Milken Family Foundation honored Melanie Maynes-Alfaro with the Milken Educator Award. She was one of 45 recipients across the country and the only recipient from New Mexico this year.
"I am at a loss for words," Maynes-Alfaro told ABC-7's New Mexico Mobile Newsroom, tearing up. "Total loss for words. Did not expect it."
The Milken Educator Awards, sometimes called the "Oscars of Teaching," have been given to 2,700 teachers across the country since 1987.
"It feels pretty amazing," Maynes-Alfaro said. "Pretty amazing.”
Thursday morning, very few people knew the sixth grade teacher was receiving the award. The administration told students and faculty they were simply attending an assembly with Public Educatoin Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski. What happened next shocked nearly everybody.
"Apparently, this has been known for a while," Maynes-Alfaro said. "Everyone around me kept it a great secret. Totally overwhelmed, but totally feel very honored. Very honored."
Maynes-Alfaro was the only teacher in the district on the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network, said Deming Intermediate School Principal Eulalio Mendoza. She is also on the superintendent's committee.
"She has high expectations," Mendoza said. "She puts those expectations on her and then she puts those expectations on her kids.”
Maynes-Alfaro is no stranger to awards: She is a former women's basketball player recently honored in the NMSU Athletics Hall of Fame. Maynes-Alfaro has combined her love of basketball with her love of education, having started the Melanie Maynes Basketball Camp in 2008.
"I feel that God put me on this Earth to be a teacher," Maynes-Alfaro said. "I really feel that that is my goal in life is to give back to the community and to the children. I love everything about it.”
As part of the honor, the Milken Family foundation also awarded the teacher with $25,000. She will recognize New Mexico on the national scale.
“I think the honor, itself, is just overwhelming," Maynes-Alfaro said. "The money is just an added incentive but I would have been just very pleased with the honor alone.”