A gymnasium full of unsuspecting students and staff at Jose M. Lopez Middle School Wednesday morning thought news crews were at their school to check out a presentation of a school video project.

They didn't expect HEB representatives to show up, along with the superintendant, to surprise the principal with an award.

"When I saw the HEB Buddy, I knew something was up," said Jose M. Lopez Middle School Principal Dr. Barry Lanford.

Lanford is one of eight educators in San Antonio nominated and chosen by their peers for the HEB Excellence in Education Award.

"We're surprising them in their schools with a large check, balloons and a cake just to say thank you for all that they're doing," said HEB Public Affairs Representative Kimberly Harle.

Lanford received a $2,500 check for the school and a $1,000 check for himself.

"I am humbled. Words cannot even describe what this means and what you mean," said Lanford.

Lanford said the money will help with extracurricular activities for students.

He said he might even splurge a little with his personal winnings.

"Maybe I'll buy everybody enchiladas. That's the big thing around here," he said.

Lanford has a chance to win an even bigger award.

He's one of five finalists across the state competing for prizes ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

Those winners will be announced in May.

Over the next month, HEB will award 40 educators across the state with $95,000 in prizes.