OKLAHOMA CITY – An educator with a passion for improving quality in early childhood learning is being praised for going above and beyond on the job.

Paula Gates loves children and is an educator at Sunbeam Family Services, helping Educare in Oklahoma City with programs designed to improve early childhood development.

“Paula works wonders with these kids. If she sees something that needs to be changed, she will change it,” said parent Becky Jackson. “If a parent comes and says something, she will work it out and fix it. I love her.”

It can be a tough world out there for kids, but when there’s someone like Paula looking out for the well-being of children, that makes life a little easier for kids and parents, alike.

“Paula is the biggest cheerleader for our community because she’s really passionate about helping kids thrive and getting them ready for kindergarten,” said Angie Doss, Chief External Relations Officer at Sunbeam Family Services.

Recently, Paula received the surprise of a lifetime and was awarded the Express Employment Professionals Most Valuable Performer Award for Excellence, receiving a check of $5,000.

“Paula has done a great job with early childhood education with thousands and thousands of families,” said Bob Funk, President of Express Employment Professionals of Oklahoma.

Doss says Paula goes beyond being a team leader.

“Paula just doesn`t lead the team, she helps with grants, she helps inspire the staff,” Doss told News 4. “And she is so passionate about what she does that it really transfers to all of our staff.”

Paula’s husband, Galen Gates, says the award was well-deserved for his wife.

“It was definitely a surprise. But it wasn`t a surprise,” Gates said. “I think it was – I see her when she gets home every day and hear about her day and I know how hard she works.”

If you want to recognize an outstanding employee or co-workers for the MVP award, go to KFOR.com/Express to submit your nomination.

This award and segment is sponsored by Express Employment Professionals of Oklahoma.