WASHINGTON  - Three public school employees in Maryland have claimed a share of the record $656m Mega Millions jackpot, the state lottery said Tuesday. “We are thrilled that three such deserving Marylanders have won this money,” said lottery director Martino. “It’s gratifying to know that these individuals, who have given so much to the public through the years, have had this wonderful luck. It couldn’t have happened to nicer people,” he said. Calling themselves the “Three Amigos,” the winners - two teachers and a school administrator - arrived at the headquarters of the Maryland lottery with their financial advisers, and chose the $158 million cash option, the lottery said.

After taxes, they will each take home just under $35 million, it said.

Martino said all three wanted to remain anonymous but the lottery said one was a woman in her 20s, another a man in his 40s, and the third a woman in her 50s. All of them worked part-time jobs to make ends meet.

“The teachers said they all planned at this point in time to remain public school teachers, not just this school year but going forward,” said Martino at a news conference.

The three friends shared one of the three winning tickets in the March 30 drawing for the record $656 million dollar prize, the largest in US lottery history.

Tickets with the winning combination of 2, 4, 23, 38, 46 plus Mega Ball 23 were sold in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland amid an unprecedented nationwide lottery-buying frenzy.

Kansas lottery chief Dennis Wilson said his state’s winner turned up at his offices in Topeka shortly before noon Friday with a lawyer and financial officer in tow - as well as a request to stay out of the headlines.

No one has stepped forward yet with the third winning ticket bought at a MotoMart store in Red Bud, Illinois.

The Maryland winners had pooled their money to buy 60 one-dollar tickets, which were then held by the youngest winner.

“I had all 60 tickets spread across my floor,” the lottery quoted the youngest winner as saying. “Once I realized one was a winner, I called my two friends right away.”

Another winner had put the lottery out of her mind and gone to bed early the night of the drawing when she got the call.

“It was around 11:30 pm, and my phone just kept ringing and ringing. I finally decided to answer it, thinking something was wrong,” she was quoted as saying.

On the line were the two other winners who told her: “Get dressed. We’re coming over right now.”

The lottery said the winners made copies of the ticket, signed it, and then one of the women drove to her mother’s house and put it in her safe.