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HIALEAH (CBSMiami) — Often times, when educators are honored for their work they get a plaque. Or an apple.

On Friday, Hialeah Gardens Middle School Principal Maritza Jimenez was given a new set of wheels.

“I have the key here to prove it,” the smiling principal said, surrounded by students and staff at the school, as well as representatives from Toyota of Hollywood.

She took home a brand new 2017 Toyota Corolla LE for winning Principal of the Year, awarded by Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

“I’m honored and grateful to all my principals, friends, colleagues that I have the opportunity to represent them at the state level as Principal of the Year,” she said.

Principal Jiminez was handed the keys to the car during an award ceremony, honored for her more than 20 years of experience in administration and curricular expertise. She started with the school in 2008, and during her tenure, the school said she has boosted test scores and attendance rates, as well as instituted an International Cambridge Program and several popular and successful academies.

While she said the honor is something she didn’t expect, her students and staff were not at all surprised.

“She plays with us, which is really, really fun and interactive for her because, being a principal, you’re supposed to, like, enforce all the laws but when you’re with the student, it’s easier to be ‘chillax’ around them and you’re able to communicate with them easier,” said 8th grader Jordan Bryant.

“She’s number one there with you when you have a crisis or emergency, or just a child needs a lending hand,” said Jacqueline Garcia.

Principals not only have huge responsibilities with their students, but also their staff of teachers and counselors. They all echo similar reasons why their principal is deserving of the award.

“She supports all of her students and her staff and all of our endeavors, which are quite many at our school,” said Garcia. “There’s many different programs that are not available anywhere else but we have them here.”


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