South Sioux City Middle School teacher Jon Pickinpaugh thought he was going to an assembly Thursday morning to hear school officials laud students’ rising test scores. Instead, in a surprise, Pickinpaugh received a $25,000 Milken Educator Award in front of an enthusiastic crowd of students, administrators and fellow teachers. The presentation was completely unexpected, he said at the conclusion of the ceremony, after lots of hugs and handshakes and a wave of applause and students standing and yelling. “Normally, I don’t like to be surprised, but it was a great surprise,” Pickinpaugh said. Pickinpaugh, 34, is one of just 44 Milken Educator Award winners for the 2017-18 academic year and the only honoree from Siouxland or the state of Nebraska. The annual awards are widely known as the “Oscars of Teaching.” “We don’t accept nominations. You don’t find us, we find you,” Milken Family Foundation Senior Program Administrator Greg Gallagher said. Gallagher, who was present for Thursday’s ceremony, called Pickinpaugh’s exceptional teaching a model for the state and nation.