Four hundred boisterous children cheered on Prairie Park School second-grade teacher Amanda Vail as she was presented with the Lawrence Horizon Award on Friday.
The award honors second-year teachers for exemplary work and dedication.
Superintendent Randy Weseman presented the award to Vail and praised her work at Prairie Park.
"We know how much you love your kids and we know you're just another example of the great teachers here at Prairie Park," he told the assembly of teachers, students and Vail's family.
Vail said she was shocked and nervous when Weseman announced her name.
"I didn't know what to expect or exactly what was going on," she said after the ceremony.
Prairie Park Principal David Williams said Vail's story is unique. A former banker, she decided to become a teacher, arriving at Prairie Park last year.
Williams lauded her dedication to teaching and learning new educational methods. He said her colleagues admire her use of technology in the classroom.
And her days start early; Williams said she is often the first person in the building, sometimes at 6 a.m.
"She does that all because of the kids," he said.
As former students gave Vail a batch of colorful balloons and a bouquet of flowers, she was able to reflect on her first year of teaching.
"It's very meaningful because the first year is challenging regardless, and to have so much support and help from so many of your colleagues really just helps you out," she said.
Vail thanked her fellow teachers for helping her through good times and bad.
"I just really appreciate all the help from all the teachers and my family for listening to so many stories and supporting me through the first year and through school," she said.
Teachers honored with the Lawrence Horizon Award are nominated by the Lawrence school district to receive the Kansas Horizon Award, given by the Kansas State Department of Education.