A surprise pep rally to honor principal Tamala Martin, who was named the 2013 Principal of the Year by the Kentucky School Counselor’s Association, took place at Summit Elementary on Monday.
Students chanted “Mrs. Martin! Mrs. Martin!” and waved signs reading “Congratulations,” gave her cards listing the reasons they were proud of her and hugged her en masse as they filtered out of the gym.
Martin, who has led the school for the last 15 years, knew she’d won the award but was surprised by the outpouring of love from her students and staff.
“I am absolutely surprised,” she said. “I usually know everything going on in this building. It was just overwhelming, all these people that I love so much, loving me back in return.
“I know when I started this job, I said that my job would not be done until every teacher in this building was strong enough to have my own child in their class without me thinking twice about it,” Martin said. “My staff is absolutely that daggone good, one of the strongest teaching staffs you will find anywhere.
“We feel like each one of these kids is our own and they’ve been entrusted into our care and we have to do the very best for them, just like if they were on our kids and that is just the way we do things.”
That passion and dedication is what led to her nomination, said school counselor Deanna Sexton.
“You are always supportive of our students and staff and now it’s our turn to support you,” said Sexton, announcing the award at the pep rally. Sexton nominated Martin and is the incoming president of the KSCA.
“She is awesome,” said Sexton, explaining as she prepared for her upcoming role she spent time reflecting on how Martin had influenced her career. “I realized that she impacts us every day and it goes way unrecognized. I did it just because she deserves it and I don’t know if she has ever been recognized in this kind of way before.”
Sexton said Martin has been supportive of her counseling program and that the school is a unit. “We are a team, not just all 500 of these kids, teacher and counselor.”
The pep rally was organized to honor Martin. “We always brag on them, the things they do,” Sexton said of the students. “They are always recognized. She is the support behind them. This time it is her turn.”
Emily Wilks, a third-grader, presented Martin with a card bearing similes and metaphors about her, including “Your smile is as bright as the sun.”
“They are all things we like about Mrs. Martin,” said Wilks.
Third-grader Ashley Sanchez said she likes that Mrs. Martin “is so sweet.”
“She is really kind and she takes cares of us,” added classmate Tatum Rooker.
“What she does best is draw out the best of all of us,” said third-grade teacher Chris Wallace. “She truly cares about our children and wants to see to it that they get the very best so they can give their very best. I just think she has the best leadership qualities.
“On a deeper level she cares about her staff. She cares about our personal and professional lives. She treats us like we are family, not just an employee. To that I value her as my principal but as a friend also.”
Wallace said the day was a secret celebration and everybody was ready for the surprise. “We were behind closed doors and could not wait for this event.”
Wallace said the students’ metaphor and simile cards were inspired by Martin’s dedication to core content.
“Everything is tied to core content. We’ve been studying cause and effect and similes and metaphors so my students made posters as to why she got principal of the year, cause and effect to that and we were describing her with similes and metaphors,” Wallace said.
The students were popping out descriptions in rapid-fire fashion.
“She supports us. She does good stuff for the school and she is just a really good principal,” said fifth-grader Brooke Davidson.
“Mrs. Martin is really sweet,” added fourth-grader Christopher Hallman.
“She does a lot of stuff for the school to keep it really good,” added fourth-grader Trent Litteral.
“She does nice things for all of the schools. She helps people out,” added fourth-grader Mikey Chaffin.
“She really deserves it,” said Hayden Hall, a fourth-grader.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2653.