116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
VINTON — Educators attribute Vinton-Shellsburg Middle School’s recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School to giving students more choice, clarifying the reason behind learning a topic and having a strong local K-12 education system.
The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. The National Blue Ribbon School award affirms and validates the hard work of students, educators, families and communities in striving for — and attaining — exemplary achievement.
Five schools in Iowa were given the honor in September, but Vinton-Shellsburg is the only middle school to make the list.
At the school, a half-hour is set aside every day for students to get academic help, make up assignments or choose an extended learning opportunity such as art, auto shop, the making of the “Star Wars” movies, mindfulness or yoga.
This model gives students "ownership and motivation to do the work,“ said Brenda Harting, a seventh-grade Language Arts teacher. The priority helps students with missing assignments or who need to go to study hall or to a teacher for help.
“If you don’t get it the first time, that’s OK. We’ll work with you on what you need help with,” said Lindsay Gallo, an eighth-grade science teacher. “We have time set aside in our day to help students who may need extra help or want to go above and beyond.”
Students who are current on their assignments can choose daily which extended learning opportunity, which are not graded, they want. Harting, who was a professional photographer before becoming a teacher, teaches students photography a couple times a week, for example.
“It gives them the opportunity to pursue their interests. I really enjoy getting to know the students in a totally different way than in a traditional classroom,” Harting said.
Educators at the middle school also are working on “teacher clarity.”
“If students know what it is we want them to learn and why, they will be more invested in that learning,” said Alexa Francois, an instructional coach.
Teachers also model for students how to ask for help. “Sometimes we need to go to each other for help, bounce ideas off each other and get advice,” Gallo said.
“Students know that if I’m not understanding this, I have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a teacher. I might not know it yet, but I’m going to get there. That self-confidence piece is huge,” Francois said.
Vinton-Shellsburg Middle School Principal Shelly Petersen said it took “hard work by the kids and teachers” over the last decade to earn the National Blue Ribbon School recognition. The middle school wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without the hard work of educators and students starting at the elementary level, Petersen said.
“I’m super proud of the work everyone has done,” Petersen said. “It’s not about being recognized — although you do feel good about that. We know we’re doing what’s right for kids, and that will benefit them and help them be successful in whatever they want to do.”
National Blue Ribbon Schools serve as models of effective school practices for state and district educators and other schools throughout the nation. A National Blue Ribbon School flag gracing a school’s entryway or on a flagpole is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning.
“I applaud all the honorees for the 2022 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award for creating vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school communities,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “As our country continues to recover from the pandemic, we know that our future will only be as strong as the education we provide to all of our children. Blue Ribbon Schools have gone above and beyond to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs.”
Almost 300 schools in the United States were recognized as 2022 National Blue Ribbon Schools, including five in Iowa. Other schools in Iowa named National Blue Ribbon Schools are Prairie Trail Elementary School in Ankeny, West Elementary School in Glenwood, Mount Ayr Elementary School in Mount Ayr and Van Meter High School in Van Meter.
Comments: (319) 398-8411; firstname.lastname@example.org