At Mount Harmony Elementary School in Owings, every school day starts with Principal Anthony Navarro at his usual spot in the entrance lobby, greeting students as they emerge from their buses.

"We want the children to know the principal and vice principal are there for them," Navarro said. "They need to know they're important and that every day is a new day to learn."

Navarro, 56, has spent his entire career in elementary schools. The early years were devoted to teaching children to read and the later years to leading elementary schools as vice principal and principal. Driving him in both duties, he said, was the idea that what children learn during their earliest years sets them up for success.

Navarro began as a first-grade teacher in Prince George's County. He grew up in the county, went to public schools, and stayed for undergraduate and graduate school at the University of Maryland.

With a master's degree in elementary reading, he soon became a reading specialist in the Prince George's schools, working in remedial services and reading programs.

"I focused on reading because it's so important," he said. "Reading is the foundation of all success in school. As you work your way up, you learn by reading about science, math -- everything."

In 1984, he moved to Calvert County with his wife and family to become a second-grade teacher at Beach Elementary School in Chesapeake Beach. Four years later, he taught at Sunderland Elementary, and after another four years he became vice principal at Patuxent Elementary in Lusby. After returning to Beach Elementary as vice principal, he became principal at Mount Harmony Elementary in 1999.

He spends part of every school day pacing the hallways, giving pencils to students with birthdays, touching base with teachers and monitoring the lunchroom.

"When you become principal, you learn that there is so much more to learn," he said with a laugh. "You have to adjust constantly to be able to accomplish many things at once. And at the same time, you want to be visible in the school, make sure you see all the kids and staff every day."

But the people who really make his school successful, he said, are the students, parents and teachers. "Those three things are what make the school what it is," he said.

And the best part, he said, is that after every school year, he comes back in August and starts over.

"You get to renew and restart with new children, new staff, new plans -- new possibilities," he said.

Calvert County: Navarro, who has spent all of his career in elementary schools, devoted himself to teaching reading in his early years.