PORTLAND — Ann Hanna, assistant principal at Ocean Avenue Elementary School, said she was “overwhelmed” and “so happy and proud” after being named assistant principal of the year by the Maine Principals’ Association.

“This honor means so much to me. I am extremely grateful for this recognition,” Hanna said in an interview Dec5. Hanna learned she won the award during a surprise, school-wide assembly Dec. 1, which she described as “such an overwhelming and joyful moment.”

Hanna has been the assistant principal at Ocean Avenue since 2011 and said her job requires flexibility.

“Every day is different depending on what is happening in the school,” she said. “As an (assistant principal) you have to be ready and willing to stop what (you’re) doing to help support a child or a teacher in any situation. … It is so nice to be recognized by the Maine Principals’ Association because the work an (assistant principal) does is often behind the scenes.”

And, Hanna said, the award is doubly special because “I know that there are many assistant principals across the state who are just as deserving, if not more so.”

It was “a wonderful feeling to be acknowledged in front of the whole school and the superintendent and my mom and my husband for doing a job that I absolutely love to do,” she added.

Ocean Avenue Principal Beverly Coursey nominated Hanna for the annual award because she is “dedicated and caring,” Coursey said. “Her ability to connect with students and talk them through a struggle is transformative. She listens to students, no matter how long it takes, to truly (understand) what is getting in the way of their learning.”

Coursey said it’s been a “privilege working with (Ann) for the past five years.” She said Hanna was the perfect person for the job because she not only helps lift up the entire school, she’s also an inspiration.

“Ann knows the names of all 425 students … which is not easy since we have new students registering every week,” Coursey said. “(And), I have learned a lot from Ann about how to support students.”

Overall, Coursey said, “I am inspired by her every day. Ann wants us all, every student and every teacher, to be the best we can be and she is here to help us reach our goals.”

She said Hanna has a poster on her office door that sums up her entire approach to everyone in the school: “Be Kinder than Necessary.”

In a press release, the Maine Principal’s Association said it chose Hanna as the assistant principal of the year for 2017 “based on her accomplishments as a strong educational leader. She is committed to excellence and has a strong desire to meet the academic and social needs of all students.”

“Her ability to be an outstanding leader, (be) self-reflective and exceed her own goals is demonstrated by the tremendous growth in student learning” at the Ocean Avenue School, the press release said.

Richard Durost, MPA executive director, said Hanna “is the very best” at what she does. He also praised “the warm, friendly atmosphere” at the Ocean Avenue School and said, “such a school climate doesn’t just happen. It must be part of the culture.”

Durost, who attended the assembly at Ocean Avenue School, said, “The greatest joy I receive is the look of pride on the faces of the students and staff (when) one of their own has been recognized.”

This is the second time recently that an administrator at a Portland school was honored for their work. Last spring, Derek Pierce, principal at Casco Bay High School, received principal of the year honors from the MPA.

Also in attendance at the assembly was Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana, who said Hanna’s award was “so deserved. She is absolutely amazing (and is) the pride and joy of the Portland Public Schools.”

In accepting the award Hanna told students, “You inspire me to challenge myself every day to do the best that I can do.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins

Ann Hanna, the Maine Principals’ Association’s assistant principal of the year, celebrates with students at Ocean Avenue Elementary School in Portland.

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