PENDER – The community of Pender is proud of its school, and now the rest of the nation is getting caught up as to why.
Pender Elementary was selected as a National Blue Ribbon School by Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos last week. The school received the distinction for their high level of achievement in Nebraska’s NeSA tests.
So how does a school celebrate such an achievement?
“There was glitter and air horns and megaphones,” said Maya Dolliver, describing an assembly last Friday where the award was announced.
“There were cupcakes,” said Jake Schuster.
“The gym exploded,” said third grade teacher Liz Hoffman. “There was silly string and glitter, which I’m sure the janitors loved.”
“Everyone was just like running around and screaming really loud,” said Addison Maise.
The school’s celebration was the culmination of a lot of work. School principal Kelly Ballinger said the district gets widespread support, from the board of education, ESU #1 and the Nebraska Department of Education. Balling says students in Pender feel strong support at all levels.
“I think everybody’s on the same page,” said Kelly Shrunk, whose children go to Pender Elementary. “I don’t know how that happened, but there are a lot of programs to get parents involved in the school and it’s always welcome to come in. I think it’s easy to come in if there’s a problem or a good thing.”
That kind of support allows teachers to constantly challenge their students to get better.
“We have always had a pretty awesome staff,” said 2nd grade teacher Sheila Dahlman. “We’ve always been very collaborative and have always wanted the best for the kids.”
“Even at the first grade level, we’re talking with grade levels above us,” first grade teacher Ashley Bessmer said. “What can I do as a first grade teacher to make sure that they’re prepared when they move on to 2nd grade or 3rd grade, just building that foundation.”
Teachers say they won’t be resting on the laurels of national recognition and say they think this will only mean continued great things for Pender in the future.
“The kids have bought in,” said 4th grade teacher Megan Nixon. “It’s not always about earning rewards. You do things every day that you don’t get pats on the back for. But when you do get that pat on the back, you want to stay up there.”
The Blue Ribbon Award is handed out to various schools nationwide each year. Pender Elementary was one of four Nebraska schools to earn the distinction in 2017.