YARMOUTH — Morgan Cuthbert, a seventh-grade math and science teacher at Harrison Middle School, received a 2011 Milken Educator Award today during a surprise school assembly.

The award, presented by Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen, comes with an unrestricted $25,000 prize recognizing Cuthbert as a model for the state and nation.

“It’s amazing to come to work every day and really love it,” a shaken Cuthbert said in accepting the award. “I’m just beside myself.”

Cuthbert, 35, was singled out for his hands-on approach to teaching and striving to make lessons relevant for students of all learning abilities.

His students have sponsored annual blood drives for the American Red Cross while studying the science of blood. They’ve also made “America’s Most Unwanted” posters about invasive plant and animal species.

“This award says you’re doing important work,” Bowen said, comparing the Milken recognition to the Academy Awards for film excellence and the Nobel Prizes for cultural and scientific advances.

The Milken Family Foundation recognizes as many as 40 outstanding educators each year. Since 1987, more than 2,500 educators have received more than $63 million.

Cuthbert grew up in Brunswick and lives in Freeport with his wife, Christina, and their 15-month-old son, Colby.