That was gift enough for Principal Alan Mather, but there was an award he didn't know about, presented by Mayor Emanuel. The Golden Apple Foundation gave its first award to a principal. Along with the award, he received $10,000.
Mather's family was in on the secret. His father and brothers came in from out of town.
"He's been doing great work for decades and it's great to see this at this moment," said Mike Mather, brother.
Years ago, Mather hitchhiked to Chicago from southern Indiana to apply for a job with CPS. He went from English teacher to track coach to principal.
"This was the place for me that education was the right thing. That it gives me value. Gives value to my life," said Alan Mather.
He was the first principal of Lindblom when it reopened in 2005 with just one class of 7th graders. It became a selective enrollment public school in the Englewood neighborhood. The senior class' success is evidence of his leadership. Students say he always treats them with respect and offers encouragement.
"You're here and we all should be happy and I think he's one of the best principals and he really cares about the students," said Shermee Randolph, student.
"He dresses up as a clown riding on his unicycle throwing candy at us so he's like building this relationship with us that he's not an authority figure we have to be scared of," said Alexis Sierra, student.
Then there's the unicycle. He usually only brings it out for Halloween, but Wednesday he took a victory lap through the hallways after an extraordinary day in the life of an educator.