An educator in Hopewell was surprised Wednesday with a national award — and he’s the only one in Virginia receiving the honor.

Assistant Principal Ryan Sykes thought he was attending a regular pep rally at Carter G. Woodson Middle School. Instead, he learned he was the recipient of a $25,000 award.

“I was thinking, is there another Ryan Sykes in here?” the surprised administrator told 8News. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

Only 40 teachers across the nation receive the $25,000 Milken Educator Award.

“I’m just shocked and blessed and honored. I woke up this morning, I didn’t expect for this to happen,” Sykes said.

The award is given to educators who are usually in the early stages of their careers who have already garnered impressive achievements and bright futures ahead.

Sykes believes his energy and passion is what sets him apart.

“For a student to come and see me with a bow tie on or a shirt and tie with a smile on my face, that’s not something they necessarily get all the time at home, so that’s another thing that drives me,” Sykes explained.

Sykes isn’t sure yet what the money will go towards. And while he’s honored and humbled by the recognition, he remains focused on the children he serves.

“I know there are kids out here who really need somebody who care, and it’s like I’ve been anointed to care,” Sykes added.