Maritza Jimenez named Miami-Dade School Principal of the Year

Hialeah Gardens Middle School principal will compete for state title

HIALEAH GARDENS, Fla. – A Miami-Dade County educator received a big prize this week for being named Principal of the Year.

"It just feels surreal. I feel so honored, like I'm dreaming," Maritza Jimenez said.

Students and others in the community congratulated the Hialeah Gardens Middle School principal after she won a free 3-year lease on a brand-new Toyota, courtesy of Toyota of Hollywood.

"We jumped on it and said we would love to donate a car," Anthony Damato said. "It's the first time ever they've recognized Principal of the Year with a car, and so it's something we wanted to support."

Jimenez credits the honor with the hard work of her staff and students.

"It takes all of us to work together to get to this point where we're at right now," Jimenez said.

Those who know Jimenez call her a pioneer.

"Sometimes you have to think outside the box, but actually do outside the box, and Maritza Jimenez does both," Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho said.

From academies to a working farm, she does what others don't.

"She's encouraging and she's not afraid to try something that has not been tried at the middle school level before," teacher Yvette Rodriguez said.

Jimenez said she's grateful for the gift after being recognized for her hard work.

"I needed a car badly," Jimenez said. "This is a brand-new car that I'm going to have for the next three years, so I wasn't even imagining this was possible."

Jimenez will now move on to compete as Principal of the Year at the state level.