GUADALUPE, Calif. - Each morning, students arrive at Mary Buren Elementary School welcomed by a friendly, smiling face.
“When I get out of my car in the morning, and I’m greeting students in the morning, and I’m seeing them smile, and seeing their families, and getting that time to connect with them, it's fun and it's enjoyable,” said principal Jesely Alvarez.
The fourth year principal is a popular person on Guadalupe campus. She's successful too.
Alvarez has just been named as the California State Assembly District 35 “Woman of the Year.”
“For this year to get this recognition, it's amazing, but it doesn't belong to me, it belongs to all of the staff and community that works with our kids,” Alvarez said.
The annual award is handed out in each of the state's 80 Assembly districts. It coincides each year with Women's History Month.
Alvarez earned this year's award for her achievements in education and contributions to Guadalupe.
“She's someone who gives back to the community more than a lot of people and she cares about these students more than probably anyone that I’ve met,” said teacher Laurie Iunker.
Iunker, a second grade teacher, nominated Alvarez for the award with the Jordan Cunningham office.
"When I thought about someone who deserves to being named Woman of the Year for our assembly district, Jesely was the first person who came to mind," Iunker said.
Iunker and Alvarez started working at Mary Buren Elementary at the same time in 2014.
Iunker said she's inspired the leadership skills Alvarez displays and how she has been able to unite everyone on campus.
“She wants the students to do well educationally,” said Iunker. “She cares about their education regardless of their background or their socioeconomic status. It doesn't matter where we are, she wants the best for them.”
A Washington state native, Alvarez left the Seattle-area four years ago to move to Guadalupe. She calls working at Mary Buren Elementary as a “career fit of a lifetime.”
“I really treat this and view the responsibility of serving this community that it's my family, so I consistently call it my school family because it is. When I look at our kids, I think of my own child and I think about how I want his experience to be in school and in life,” Alvarez said.
Students are particularly drawn to their cheerful principal, who always seems to have a smile on her face.
“Mrs. Alvarez is a very energetic and fun principal. I'm glad we have here in our school,” said fifth grader Xitlali Bravo.
Kids say they enjoy coming to school each day, especially because Alvarez brings a positive energy to campus and has a genuine caring spirit.
“She's a really nice principal,” said fifth grader Noah Garcia. “She should stay here for as long as she can.”
Alvarez will be absent at Mary Buren on Monday, but she'll have a good reason for missing school.
Along with her husband and son, she'll be in Sacramento at the capital where she'll be honored on the floor of the state assembly and senate.
“It's exciting” said Alvarez. “On Monday, I’ll be thinking about school, but it will be exciting to be at the capital. I'm looking forward to being recognized along with other women across the districts and I feel like it's a huge honor.”
Alvarez is no stranger to awards. Just last year, she was named principal of the year for her region by the Association of California School Administrators.
She has also appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show twice when the popular talk-show host donated $100,000 to help renovate the school's library after is was severely damaged by a flood in 2014.
“It's one of those really lucky things that you get to work with kids all day and you get to work with other adults that enjoy what they're doing and what to be here and work really hard to get the very best for our kids,” said Alvarez.