Sarasota, Florida -- Whether she's kneeling alongside a student, reading in class, or monitoring the lunchroom, Principal Barbara Shirley says she loves these one-on-one moments with her students at Alta Vista Elementary in Sarasota.
"It gives me a way to interact with students, really find out who they are and what they're learning in the classroom and see the excitement on their faces," says Shirley.
Today, the excitement is for her.
"Congratulations!" says one student as she and several other students swarm around Shirley hugging her.
Shirley is Florida's Principal of the Year.
"I think she's the best principal in the whole state," says 7-year-old Cherish Williams.
"She wants us to learn to be smart," says 8-year-old Dolly Marino.
And kids know what it takes to be number one.
"You have to work hard," says Cherish.
Shirley is surprised and humbled by the award presented to her in Orlando by, who else, Mickey Mouse. It's a personal win she shares.
"It validates our volunteers that come every day and work so hard with our children, the teachers, the staff and community. We're so lucky to a have a community that cares so much about education," says Shirley.
Despite all the attention she's receiving, Shirley stays grounded the day after the award ceremony.
"I came back to work and it's business as usual tring to make sure we keep our focus as a school because every single minute counts in the lives of children," says Shirley.
Shirley received a $5,000 cash prize and an overnight stay with a guest in Cinderella's Castle at Disney's Magic Kingdom plus park tickets.
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