JOPLIN, Mo. — A special education teacher was in the spotlight today — as the Joplin School District named its Teacher of the Year.

Julie Pagan got a huge surprise walking into a school assembly in her honor. She’s been in education for 8 years — 6 of those at Soaring Heights Elementary.

She says she’s honored to be chosen for the recognition.

“I am really overwhelmed and in shock – I did not expect this at all. I work hard every day but never expected anything back from it. So, yeah, I’m very overwhelmed,” Julie said.

“Julie rises to the top because she sets a high standard for herself. She inspires the rest of us to push ourselves hard and achieve more. And she does so in such a graceful way that makes everybody feel supported and loved,” said Katy Booher, Soaring Heights Principal.

As part of the award, Pagan received a plaque, balloons and flowers — and $500.

She will also go up for consideration for this year’s Missouri Regional Teacher of the Year.