Students call him Mr. Whiz.

But as of Wednesday morning, Millard teacher Tom Whisinnand can go by another name: Mr. Best.

At a student assembly, Whisinnand was revealed as the first winner of the National University System Sanford Teacher Award.

The honor came with a $50,000 check.

David Andrews, president of the San Diego-based private National University, announced the honor during the assembly at Reagan Elementary School near 198th Avenue and I Street.

Whisinnand, 39, teaches fourth grade at Reagan.

“I was thinking: This is unbelievable. What an honor,” he said.

The Sanford Teacher Award recognizes and rewards 51 of the nation’s top inspiring teachers, one from each state and Washington, D.C.

But only one gets the $50,000 prize.

According to National University, inspiring teachers are those who engage students, build their confidence, create an inclusive environment, motivate students to succeed and give students a voice.

The award is named for philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, who is committed to supporting inspiring teaching through pre-K-12 programs that are being expanded nationally by the nonprofit National University System.

The award presentation marked the official launch of the new annual awards.

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joe.dejka@owh.com, 402-444-1077

Joe covers education for The World-Herald, focusing on pre-kindergarten through high school. Phone: 402-444-1077.

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