FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The principal of the Fort Rucker Elementary School and Fort Rucker Primary School is the Department of Defense Education Activity Americas Elementary Principal of the Year.

Dr. Vicki Gilmer earned the honors after the announcement was made by Dr. Christy Huddleston, DODEA Southeast District superintendent, during a surprise ceremony at the elementary school April 14 that included the entire FRPS and FRES staff.

"We all know that to get to the places where we are, it requires support, it requires a positive climate, a positive school culture, requires a vision -- all of those things really encompass what makes a great leader. A great leader cares, they listen, they understand, they help support, they are honest, they grow you, they build capacity, they sustain, and I'm very proud of the two faculties that will become one," the district superintendent said, referring to the eventual combining of the two schools under one roof.

Gilmer said that the recognition came as a surprise, but that it wasn't something that she alone was able to accomplish.

"The recognition that comes with blending of the schools and the principal of the year selection is a great confirmation of what is going on in the schools," she said. "I am not a party of one, but a member of one of the most dynamic educational staffs in DODEA.

"Both schools are high performing and collaborative, so blending them together now is a natural next step as we prepare to be physically under one roof in the future," she continued. "Additionally, we make it our fundamental goal every day to provide the highest level of success for all students, and that type of dedication and focus is worth recognizing. I would love for this recognition to be named the DODEA School of the Year."

Col. Shannon T. Miller, Fort Rucker garrison commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher D. Spivey, Fort Rucker command sergeant major, were among those on hand to congratulate Gilmer on her achievement and thank her for her commitment to the education system on the installation.

"It is a tremendous honor and privilege to serve with you," said Miller after giving Gilmer a garrison commander coin. "Your leadership has tremendously impacted our Fort Rucker community. Well done and it's very well deserved. We're extremely proud of you."

Dr. Lisa Coleman, DODEA Georgia/Alabama community superintendent, said that Gilmer's accomplishment is a testament to the type of educator she has become, and reflects her commitment to the students and schools.

"She has been a stellar leader, not just as a curriculum leader, but as an ethical person," said Coleman. "We have lots of good leaders within our community, but she is one of our great leaders, and I don't say that lightly -- she deserves the recognition. As her community superintendent, I am very proud of her."

Gilmer, who has more than 27 years of education experience with DODEA, began her career as a kindergarten teacher at Fort Rucker Primary School, and was selected as teacher of the year in 2000.

She began her administrative career when she was selected as the FRPS assistant principal, then served as the FRES principal until 2016, when she was selected to become principal of both schools that will soon become one.

Gilmer attributes her success to the people along the way who have helped and inspired her to become the best educator possible. For her, it's all about the team.

"Every person at the Fort Rucker Schools is invaluable," she said. "We have worked on the team concept for several years and now are even rolling that concept into our students' curriculum. There is great power in a group that has a clear purpose because it ties what you do daily to the success of your team.

"It is a deeply mutual feeling of respect and purpose which leads to a powerful, collective commitment to excellence," she continued. "I think too often people go about their job looking for immediate success. We go about our tasks daily knowing that the ultimate goal is to empower our students with every skill needed for long-term success."