WYOMING, Mich. — A Wyoming teacher was one of 11 teachers chosen nationwide to receive an 'Excellence in Teaching Award.' 

Aarika Thomas, a 7th and 8th grade teacher, received her award during a surprise assembly at Vanguard Charter Academy Friday. With the award, Thomas receives a $3,500 valued prize and a $1,000 gift card for school supplies. 

Thomas said she was shocked. 

"Shaking a little bit, I had no idea just kind of a strange moment where you didn't feel like it was really happening," she said following the assembly.

The academy's principal said Thomas is extremely deserving of the honor. 

"It's a privilege just to go into her room, and just see it's like magic happening everyday where kids are working hard and she's giving individual feedback to each and every student," said Mark Dejong, Vanguard Charter Academy principal. 

The award comes from National Heritage Academies, which is a network of nearly 90 public charter schools serving 60,000 in nine different states. Eleven teachers are chosen from the more than 3,000 within NHA. Another West Michigan teacher was also chosen this year, Cindy Beukema, a resource room teacher at River City Scholars Charter Academy. 

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