WENATCHEE – Lewis and Clark Elementary School principal Alfonso Lopez got quite a surprise on Tuesday afternoon.

The Mexican-born educator who immigrated to the United States as an adult to offer a greater chance at opportunity for himself and his family, was presented with the honor of Washington State Principal of the Year at a special assembly in front of a packed gymnasium, which included all of his school’s students and faculty.

“I don’t deserve this award for sure, there are principals that are way smarter than I,” said Lopez, addressing those in attendance. “All my staff in the school, they are wonderful. All of them work so hard, that I feel like I don’t deserve this myself and I want to share with all of you this accomplishment.”

“I’m humbled to receive this award,” continued Lopez to the packed assemblage. “And I still think that I have a few more years to go, and with those years that I have in my life in education, I’ll go with all of my heart trying to make education even better.”

“It’s unbelievable, the feeling is overwhelming,” exclaimed Lopez after the event in an interview with iFIBER ONE News. “When I came to the United States, I was looking for an opportunity for my family, but also I wanted to develop some of the skills that I thought in those days that I had. Thankfully, life took me where I needed to be. I didn’t dream all of this, but I thought something was going to happen in my life, something like this, I didn’t have exactly the idea of what was going to happen, but it happened.”

The coveted distinction is awarded annually by the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP), a consortium of principals from around the state, who spend roughly eight months collecting and evaluating nominations from all across Washington’s 294 school districts before making their selection.

“As a board (of directors), we sift through it and read through it and look for pieces of improvement,” said AWSP President Heidi Sutton. “What makes this person an exemplary principal who works so hard and has made quite a difference, whether in academic growth or in student climate growth? And he (Lopez) shined. He just stood out.”

In addition to giving much-deserved recognition to one outstanding educational overseer in the state, the award also serves as a pronouncement of what Washington’s teachers and faculty are doing to set themselves apart from the rest of the nation.

“They (award winners) get to go and present Washington as an elementary, middle-level or secondary principal and now assistant principals as well” explained Sutton. “And it is proving what we are doing in our state. It’s promoting what we’re doing in their small little community, then at a state level and now at a national level. So, it’s a representation of his building, his staff and what he’s put together. And we love promoting that and honoring his work, but also helping others know this is the work that’s going on in a principal’s life.”

In light of the receiving the award, Lopez will now have the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to meet other top principals from around the country and becomes eligible for consideration as the nation’s Principal of the Year as well.

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