HEBRON — Jeff Brooks thought he was headed to his school's gym to look at logos and discuss a marketing plan.
Instead, when he flipped on the lights recently, he was greeted with cheers from the entire Hebron Middle School student body, teachers and staff.
Brooks, the school's principal, was lauded during a brief convocation in recognition of being named the Indiana Association of School Principals Principal of the Year for District 1, which encompasses Northwest Indiana.
"I appreciate being here every day," Brooks told the crowd. "I really don't know what to say."
Brooks grew up in Hebron, graduating from the town's high school in 1991. He started teaching in Hebron, filling in for a teacher on maternity leave, then moved on, teaching or being an administrator in Hobart, Lake Central and Hanover districts. Six years ago he came back to Hebron.
"He is a role model for leadership," Nathan Kleefisch, superintendent of the MSD of Boone Township, said. "Any superintendent would be proud and lucky to have a principal like Mr. Brooks."
Kleefisch called Brooks "humble and trustworthy."
Teacher Matt Beahm nominated Brooks and called him "what a principal should be."
Beahm said Brooks always listens, genuinely cares and is a guy "you can go to day or night."
"I never wanted to be recognized for anything," Brooks said, adding he comes to school each day hoping to make a great learning experience for all of the students.
Brooks said he was overwhelmed and humbled, not only by the award, but by the reception from the students and staff at the school.
Brooks now will be in contention for the state principal of the year award.