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Students at Mount Hope/ Nanjemoy Elementary School say being honest and determined as well as being committed to making sure everyone is happy helped their principal, Kristin Shields, win the 2014 Charles County Public Schools Principal of the Year Award and receive the Washington Post’s Distinguished Educational Leadership Award.

Shields has been principal at the Nanjemoy elementary school for three years. She has eight years experience as principal having opened William A. Diggs Elementaary School in Waldorf as principal and taking the helm at J.C. Parks Elementary School in Indian Head for three years. Shields also spent one year as principal at a school in Pennsylvania.

Prior to her administrative positions, Shields taught in elementary school in Prince George’s County.

As much as she loves leading a school, Shields said what she likes best is teaching, and that is part of the reason on any given day Shields can be found in a classroom assisting teachers.

Some students know her as Chef Shields as she assists in wellness initiatives and incentives dressed as a chef.

Older students may call her the writing doctor as she often appears in class wearing a doctor’s white coat and pink stethoscope, walking around assisting students with their writing skills.

“I love working with kids,” Shields said.

Her commitment to education and her ability to lead by example helped earn her the award, according to a press release from the school system.

First-grade teacher Holly Walsh wrote in a nomination letter that Shields conducts upbeat staff meetings and sends positive emails to staff among other positive incentives.

“She is always accessible, and is not one who likes to keep her door closed. When there are problems, she is the first to come up with a solution. She is a great leader in our school and has made many positive changes in the community,” Walsh wrote.

Shields said her school of about 370 students has a lot of community and parent support. Shields describes the school often as the “hub of the community.”

The school hosts many activities that include the Nanjemoy community, including the PTO carnival, fall festival, pet photo contests and the popular Thanksgiving dinner for senior citizens.

Shields did not create all the events but keeps them going year after year to “keep the tradition alive.”

Shields attends as many school events as possible to support staff and students and even attends events at the Nanjemoy Community center to further support the community.

Every morning students will see Shields at the front of the school greeting them as they arrive.

Students say Shields is nice and funny.

“She’s awesome,” said Taylor Bohannon, 10.

Mia Keys, 12, said Shields is determined to make everyone happy.

Looking around the school’s cafeteria during one of several lunch periods, Mia said, “There are actually very happy people here.”

Shields said she loves going to work every day and likes to try and get others to feel the same way about work and school. She said she has many incentives for teachers and students to boost attendance and morale.

Aside from being fun, students say she is also a good leader.

“She’s honest, I can tell you that,” said Grady Klaas, 10.

Grady said Shields has never told a lie to her students.

He said what he likes about her leadership skills is that “she never leaves out important details.”

He said students are up to speed on everything they need to know about the day, especially if there is a change in the schedule or a special event.

Shields said she was honored and humbled to receive the award.

She credits teachers, students and the community for her accomplishment, saying that she is “surrounded by great people.”

The Washington Post each year honors outstanding principals throughout the metropolitan area through its educational foundation, according to a press release from the school system. A committee reviews nominations throughout the school system, and one principal is chosen to represent Charles County in the program as its principal of the year. The Washington Post Education Foundation on May 6 honored Shields during a ceremony and reception for the recipients of the Distinguished Educational Leadership Awards. She was recognized by the Charles County Board of Education at its regularly scheduled school board meeting last month.

gphillips@somdnews.com.