Kathryn Winn Primary School Principal Gerda Wise knows the importance of a higher education, and she also knows it takes hard work and encouragement to achieve dreams.

Wise reminds students daily that learning doesn't have to end after high school graduation. In fact, during a morning meeting each school day, Wise reminds kindergartners, first- and second-graders at the Carrollton school of the year they could go to college .

"It's not just about college," Wise said of her morning chat with students. The daily reminder lets students know they can achieve whatever they set their minds to through hard work. Wise also gives morning reminders to be nice to other - which helps to curb bullying in the primary school - and other character-building exercises.

Wise's work in preparing elementary students to become college and career-ready, along with her innovative ideas and leadership at the school, earned her the "Kentucky Teacher" October Leader of Month recognition.

"I got an email a couple of weeks ago that said I won," Wise said. "I didn't tell anyone."

But her story caught the attention of several colleagues across the state who sent their congratulations via social media.

Wise, who has been Kathryn Winn Primary's principal for three years, said her parents always encouraged her to go to college - an opportunity neither of her parents had.

"It made a huge difference," Wise said of her choice to attend college.

Wise's mother, a German immigrant, earned her high school diploma before moving to the United States. Her father grew up on a farm and quit high school to help with work.

"They didn't have the opportunity that we have," Wise said.

While some children might not have the encouragement at home as she did, Wise takes on the role to help prepare her students much like her parents did.

"They need staff members who tell them they can go to college," Wise told Kentucky Teacher magazine. "Many of our students come from a background where we are the only ones who are telling them that they can go."

And Wise's college prep work doesn't go unnoticed at the primary level. Teachers have told her stories of students talking of college choices already. And students share their morning college routine with parents at home.

Even though Wise knows that students face many years before their first day of college, she also knows that the work ethic needed for success begins early.

"It starts today," she said, "not when you get to college."