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An award is great. When it's a surprise it's even better.

That was the treat that Dan Westfahl did not realize was waiting for him Thursday morning in the library at Brookfield Elementary School.

Westfahl, the school's principal, was reading to Wanda Boggs' fourth-grade class when Elmbrook Superintendent Mark Hansen and a crowd of other visitors arrived, including Association of Wisconsin School Administrators President Bruce Russell.

"It is my pleasure to be here today to give a really strong and warm congratulations and a thank you and most importantly to recognize the 2017 Wisconsin Elementary Principal of the Year," Russell said.

AWSA selects three principals each year — one elementary, one associate and one secondary principal — who are recognized for their efforts in their schools and communities.

The pool of candidates stems from the Herb Kohl Education Foundation principal leadership awards.

"The committee has to drill down a little bit further and narrow that down to some of the great leaders at each of the individual levels across the state and one (part) of that is being able to drill that down and pick out a single elementary principal that we can recognize as the best of the best in Wisconsin," Russell said.

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An emotional Westfahl was joined by his wife Deb, daughters Mollie and Maddie, mother Alberta and brother Dave.

"It really, really, really means a lot," Westfahl said about the award. "I work with really great people. I get to work with 600 kids every day and I love my job. I love my work.

"It's really a team effort. This is about all of us working together."

Joining the celebration Thursday were Brookfield Elementary staff, district officials and a number of Elmbrook School Board members. Board member Linda Boucher added to the festivities by reading a poem that she had written for the occasion and Hansen also made remarks.

"You know what I think of your work and I thank you for making a difference for kids, for making a difference for teachers, but more importantly for an entire community," Hansen said.

As part of his award, Westfahl will be invited to attend a gathering in Washington, D.C. where elementary principals of the year from around the country will come together.

AWSA's principal awards are sponsored by The Meemic Foundation.

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