It was a crowning fit for a queen and it came as a surprise to the honorary royal at the center of the celebration.

Barb Bjorkman was crowned Queen of Lake Elmo Elementary School on Wednesday, May 28

a position she will hold long after she retires next month.

The surprise coronation in honor of Bjorkman's 24-years of service at the school was a hard-kept secret for the students, teachers and staff who said a cheerful and sometimes tearful good-bye during the well-planned program.

Bjorkman's official last day is June 24, two weeks after the last day of school. Until then, Bjorkman will reign supreme with her newly acquired crown, mantle and scepter all presented to her during the Wednesday program.

Besides the royal title, Bjorkman was also treated to "thank-you" messages from each of the teachers, flowers, poems, a song, a "key" to the school, and of course, lots of candy for her legendary candy bowl.

The teachers and staff also chipped in to buy Bjorkman a new bike, which she plans to ride by the school after she retires and wave to all her friends.

Bjorkman has a long history with Lake Elmo Elementary School. Besides working there for more than two decades, Bjorkman also attended the school as a student from the first through the sixth grade. And Bjorkman still lives in Lake Elmo with her husband Jim.

Later in life, she went to work for the school district at its service center and then moved to the elementary school, where she eventually became the secretary to the principal, a position she's held for the past 14 years.

Bjorkman said she stayed so long because she enjoys her job and the people she works with. "You never do the same thing from moment to moment," she said. "It's never boring."

As for her retirement plans, Bjorkman said she and her husband just plan to do "whatever they want, whenever they want."

After her official crowning, students from each of the classes came through the front office every 10 minutes to say a special thanks and give Bjorkman a hug good-bye.

"Seeing the kids

that's what I'm going to miss the most," Bjorkman said.

And seeing Bjorkman's smiling face everyday is what everyone else is going to miss the most.