The pleasant smile turned to unadulterated surprise when Molly Reas realized it was her name included in the announcement of Golden Apple Award recipients.
"I was shocked," she said. "I was surprised."
Reas is the health enhancement teacher at Poly Drive Elementary School and won the Golden Apple Award in the specialist/administrator category.
"I'm lucky to have the whole student body as my class," she said, smiling.
A traveling team of well-wishers visited a handful of Billings schools Wednesday morning and surprised six educators with Golden Apples.
Along with the Golden Apples, the Billings Education Association named its Teacher of the Year and its Friend of Education for the year Wednesday morning.
This year's Golden Apple winners were Laura McCoy, a second-grade teacher at Trinity Lutheran School; Kerra Olson, a first-grade teacher at Boulder Elementary School; Deborah Richau, a seventh-grade life science teacher at Will James Middle School; Chuck Swarm, biology and human anatomy and physiology teacher at West High School; Mary Enright, support professional for School Disrtict 2's Adult Education; and Reas at Poly Drive.
BEA's Teacher of the Year is Lewis and Clark Middle School's geography teacher, Jamie Jarvis.
Jarvis created the "Two Roads Project," which challenges middle schoolers to raise money for a charity of their choice. This year's initial investment of $4,000 has increased to more than $16,000.
BEA's Friend of the Education this year is Darell Tunnicliff, president of Arts Without Boundaries, a nonprofit organization committed to supporting, enhancing and encouraging student participation in the arts.
The group was founded 12 years ago by Patty and Philip Aaberg.
Golden Apple awards are given each year to two elementary school teachers, one middle and one high school teacher, a school specialist or administrator and one support professional.
Community members, parents and students nominate teachers in the greater Billings area, explaining why they think their particular educator exemplifies excellence in education. A committee of volunteers then selects the winners, who were informed Wednesday morning of their awards.
The program is run by the Billings Chamber of Commerce and the Billings Education Association and is conducted by volunteers. Each winner receives $500, money donated by the community.
Speaking to students and staff at Poly Drive during the awards assembly, Principal Kevin Croff congratulated Reas and told the room they were lucky to have a school full of quality educators.
Reas beamed and told the students how much she adored them.
"I have the best job in the world," she said.