Principal Kimmie Etheredge was surprised Monday morning to learn she'd been named the Texas 2014 Distinguished Principal of the Year.
Etheredge is principal at Kay Granger Elementary School in northern Fort Worth; a part of the Justin-based Northwest Independent School District.
The award comes from the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA) who gives the yearly award as part of the National Distinguished Principal Program. It goes to one of the more than 5,000 elementary school principals in the state that has been identified as an outstanding educational leader.
"It recognizes the talent she has in creating schools that are ones where children thrive in the community," said Superintendent Dr. Karen Rue. "She (Etheredge) represents the best of everyone in education and we are so proud of her."
Along with the award to be presented formally in Austin next month, Etheredge received a check for $10,000 donated by educational publisher, Mentoring Minds.
She will also travel to Washington D.C. in October to represent the state and be honored at the national level with the other winners from across the country.
"To be in this position was never even in a dream of mine," said Etheredge.
The staff at Granger surprised Etheredge with the announcement Monday during an assembly in her honor. District leaders had distracted her with a special meeting that morning and when she arrived at the school, her 900+ students had gathered singing a song in her honor with leaders from TEPSA waiting behind a curtain with the award.
Etheredge broke into tears at the site of the student body singing and admits the actual award didn't even really set in until well after the assembly.
"Total surprise," she said. "So blessed. I thank God every day for the privilege of working in this district and with these kids. There are so many amazing principals in the state of Texas and to be honored in this way out of some 5,000 elementary principals is just way more than you can possibly expect."
Many on the Granger staff also fought back tears seeing Etheredge get the honor she's worked years to achieve.
"She's the best fit, she's wonderful, she works very hard," said teacher Kelly Walton.
Etheredge was named principal when Granger opened in 2007 and has lead the school to multiple State School of Character awards and a National School of Character award last year.
"The kids do, they just love her. Her heart and soul is in this school," said teacher Debby Caillet.
In all, 58 Texas principals were nominated for the award of which 10 were picked as finalists.