A $1 Million Winner Gives It All Away

updated 09/29/2008 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/29/2008 01:00AM

Kathy Cox, 44
Peachtree City, Ga.

Kathy Cox could have packed up and gone home. She'd already won $500,000 on the quiz show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? But when she saw the final topic was World History, the former high school social-studies teacher decided to go for it. Asked by host Jeff Foxworthy for the longest-reigning British monarch, Cox became the first $1 million winner on the FOX show by naming Queen Victoria. "That," she says, "was a great moment."

But not as great as what she did next. Cox plans to give every last penny of the prize to three special-needs schools for deaf and blind students in Georgia, where she is state schools superintendent. "We're just like other American families—we've got credit card debt, car payments and a mortgage," says Cox, whose husband John's home-building business has suffered in the bad economy. "But this was not for personal gain. This was for the students."

One grateful parent is Debbie Metzler, whose daughter Megan, 18, attends a school for the deaf that will receive Cox's help. "It's a big morale booster," Metzler says. Cox's own children, John III, who is 18, and Alex, 14, helped their mom cram for the big day and now couldn't be prouder. "At first I was disappointed that I wouldn't get new clothes and a laptop, but I see these kids need it more," Alex says. "What my mom is doing—it's amazing!"

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