LINCOLN — When Lyndsay Hartmann’s name was called Tuesday, she smiled and gave a little wave to the cheering students.

The middle school science and English teacher at St. Patrick Catholic School in Lincoln had just been told that she had won a Milken Educator Award. And the $25,000 check that comes with it.

The announcement was made during a school assembly.

“I come to school to teach students, not to get $25,000 checks,” Hartmann told reporters after the announcement.

The Milken Educator Awards are called the “Oscars of teaching” by some. Teachers can’t apply for the award and don’t know they are under consideration.

“You don’t find us. We find you,” said Jane Foley, Milken Educator Awards senior vice president.

Hartmann is the only teacher in Nebraska to win this year.

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Very few people know which teacher has won the award ahead of the announcement. Teachers on Tuesday brought their students into the gym for what obviously was a special assembly.

Nebraska Lt. Gov. Mike Foley — no relation to Jane Foley — was there. So was Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matt Blomstedt.

Jane Foley explained the award to the crowd before Hartmann was honored. Afterward, Hartmann said that as she listened, she hoped she would be the recipient, but she said she wouldn’t have been surprised had the award gone to any teacher in the building.

“I work with so many other amazing individuals that deserve this award just as much as I do,” she said.

Hartmann called the school “small but mighty.”

The Lincoln school has 185 students in preschool through eighth grade. The majority of the students go on to attend Lincoln Pius X High School.

Hartmann founded both a coding club at the school and a student mentoring program to help younger elementary students with reading.

She also founded the school’s peer mentoring program for new teachers and developed the school’s annual science fair.

Principal Kristine Placek said Hartmann is focused on preparing her students for high school and college and takes them to visit both.

Hartmann graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2013.

When asked about her teaching philosophy, Hartmann said she views her students as individuals.

“As much as you can bring them and their interests into teaching, the easier it is to connect them to the real world and see their place in it,” Hartmann said.

The awards first were given by the Milken Family Foundation in 1987 to recognize teaching excellence. The awards are intended to inspire educators and emphasize the importance of joining the teaching profession.

The awards are being presented at 40 schools across the nation this year.

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Emily covers K-12 education, including Omaha Public Schools. Previously, Emily covered local government and the Nebraska Legislature for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @emily_nitcher. Phone: 402-444-1192.

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