JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — A teacher from Chicago's southern suburbs says she was left "speechless" by a national award that came with a $25,000 prize.

The (Joliet) Herald-News reports (http://bit.ly/123JoZp ) second-grade teacher Stephanie Hawkins was a winner of the Milken Educator Award. She is the only Milken winner in Illinois this year.

The award was announced at an all-school assembly at Lynne Thigpen Elementary School in Joliet, where Hawkins teaches.

Hawkins called it "one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to" her.

The 29-year-old started teaching in 2005. Principal Kim Gordon called her an outstanding teacher and natural leader.

Jane Foley is senior vice president of the Milken Family Foundation. She says Hawkins has a knack for teaching reading and her students learn to read above grade level.

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Information from: The Herald-News, http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/heraldnews