SPRINGDALE (KFSM) - The Arkansas Association of Secondary Principals named an educator in Springdale as Assistant Principal of the Year.
"I've been keeping this a secret for three weeks and getting all the students involved and the district to honor her today," said George Principal LaDena Eads.
George Junior High students filled the cafeteria Friday afternoon to help celebrate Elizabeth Barker in a surprise ceremony.
"They told me that she needed help with a kid in the arena, so I had no clue," Barker laughed. "I came around the corner, and I saw some people. I was like something's going on. Then I saw the stage and my dog, so that was definitely a surprise."
Each year, the award goes to someone who goes the extra mile to provide learning opportunities and connect with students.
"She actually helped start the language academy program that we have for Springdale Schools for students in the 8th and 9th grade," Eads said of Barker's accolades. "First year US students come here to George. They learn English very quickly."
"Mrs. Barker is the most caring, lovable person, I've ever met," added 9th-grade student Rojien Debrum. "Her door is always open in case you need someone to talk to or someone to trust."
Barker has been at George Junior High since the doors opened 15 years ago, and took on an administrative role five years ago. She says making connections with the students is what drives her.
"I don't do it for the awards. I do it because of the kids, and I enjoy being around them," Barker mentioned. "I do it to help our school. I just feel like this is my second home. I feel like these kids need someone that will advocate for them and be there for them. I feel like that's my role and I do everything I can to help them. It just helps feed my soul."
While working to improve the school as a whole, she also makes a difference individually.
"I never have the courage to talk to a principal about personal stuff," Debrum said. "But she showed me that I can trust her with all my problems."
"She is all about students first," Eads added. "If it's not about the students, then it's not right. Her integrity. Everything is going to be done up to par. She's never gonna slack off of anything."
Now that barker has won the statewide award, she will go on to compete against other assistant principals from around the country for the national award.