FARMINGTON — Fate has served a bit of irony into Joyce Rock's life.
Days after being let go as principal of Career Prep High School in Shiprock, she was selected as secondary school principal of the year by the New Mexico Association of Secondary School Principals.
"You have no idea how humbling it is," Rock said. "It's a great honor. I love being an educator. It was the perfect job for me. I understood the students and they understood me. It underlined that I did a good job there."
Rock was served paperwork on May 29 informing her that her contract was not going to be renewed for the 2013-14 school year at the Central Consolidated School District alternative high school. The paperwork included a letter placing her on administrative leave and a resignation letter she was asked to sign by district officials. She declined.
The Daily Times reported in May that Rock voiced disagreement with a plan to close Career Prep due to lack of district funds, and that led to her contract not being renewed.
CCSD spokesman James Preminger said in an email the school district would like to congratulate Rock on being selected as secondary school principal of the year.
"The CCSD administration wholeheartedly supported her application, an essential part of the process, and we are very pleased she made it," Preminger said.
Rock said the letter from the association informing her of her selection was sent to Career Prep and she found out she was selected by the bevy of text messages sent to her from teachers.
"They were very excited for me," Rock said.
After being fired by the school district, Rock called the association to tell them she was no longer principal and was told the board would discuss it.
"From reading their letter, they put that into consideration because all the that happened at CCSD," Rock said.
In the letter, association Executive Director Mike Kakuska congratulated Rock on being selected.
"Your selection is all the more gratifying considering the many trials and tribulations that you have recently had to endure. Our students are better served with the quality of people that you typify," Kakuska wrote.
Attempts to reach association board members were unsuccessful.
Joyce and Calvin Rock were visiting their son Jim Rock in Washington, D.C., this week before returning to their home near Muskogee, Okla.
Rock previously worked at Hilldale High School in Muskogee, Okla. for 17 years before spending four years as curriculum director for Gore Public Schools in Gore, Okla.
Her award will be presented during an association luncheon at the end of July, and she will be attending the National Principals Institute held for the 2013 State Principals of the Year in September at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va.
Rock is still searching for a job in education. Despite how her CCSD position ended, Rock said she loved the four years she spent as principal of Career Prep.
"I will definitely stay in education," she said. "It's so dear to my heart. There is no way I could do anything else. It was a highlight of my life."