NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) — A North Kingstown High School math teacher who during the coronavirus pandemic helped lift student morale was named the state's Teacher of the Year on Thursday.

Lisa Garcia, who has been at the school for 27 years, was notified of the honor during a surprise ceremony at the school attended by Gov. Dan McKee and state Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green.

Garcia's nomination to the state Department of Education stood out, Infante-Green said.

“Lisa has not only been an incredible teacher for nearly three decades, but has gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic to help her students both academically and emotionally," she said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Garcia led the Flocked Fundraiser, a safe way of celebrating seniors by placing plastic pink flamingos on their lawn.

“Teachers have the ability to inspire students to grow not just in the classroom but beyond it,” McKee said. “Lisa clearly has dedicated her life to that cause, giving her students the support they need to succeed throughout their time at North Kingstown High School."

As Teacher of the Year, Garcia will work with the state to support education statewide and is also eligible to represent Rhode Island for National Teacher of the Year.