• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Huntertown Elementary named Blue Ribbon School

Huntertown Elementary School has been recognized by the United States Department of Education as a 2018 National Blue Ribbon School.

The coveted award recognizes schools for overall academic performance and progress in closing student achievement gaps, according to a press release from the U. S. Department of Education.

Huntertown was one of only five public schools in Kentucky recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools, along with six private schools.

“It means a lot to the teachers,” said Principal Elaine Kaiser of the recognition. “I think it means a lot to the staff overall because it validates their hard work.”

She lauded Huntertown’s teachers for going above and beyond, with a willingness to put in the time to ensure students are successful.

That success begins with teachers having good relationships with each other and their students, Kaiser said. Because they are a family, she said teachers and everyone else on her staff want to “take care of every child who walks through that front door.”

Jackie Richardson, who has been teaching at Huntertown Elementary for more than 33 years, will travel to Washington, D.C., with Kaiser, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins and Chief Academic Officer Jimmy Brehm for the National Blue Ribbon Schools awards ceremony Nov. 7 and 8.

“It is a big honor because I know how hard we’ve worked to get that (recognition),” said Richardson.

Like other teachers at Huntertown, Richardson wants to do what’s best for kids by continuing to search for new teaching methods so students are engaged in what they’re learning, Kaiser said.

“I’m always looking for new ways to try to get the kids to read,” Richardson said, “because basically if we don’t have them as readers coming out of second grade, they don’t become readers. So it’s a big responsibility down in primary to get them so they love to read… to truly have a good reader they’ve got to love to read.”

She described reading as the foundation for learning in all other subject areas.

Since Huntertown had a dip in its state assessment scores several years ago, Hawkins said the school’s teachers and staff has been determined to demonstrate “that’s not who we are. And we’re going to show what Huntertown Elementary is all about.”

Nurturing a positive school culture through initiatives like rewarding students for good behavior, “have added to what they’re doing academically… They’ve looked at ‘what we can do to get better’ in all aspects. And I think that’s the mark of a great school,” said Hawkins. “… this National Blue Ribbon School recognition… puts a little bit of a spotlight on the work that they’ve done.”

He credited Kaiser for building strong teacher leaders, who are always willing to share what’s been successful in their classrooms with other teachers.

“I have reading leaders in the building. I have writing leaders in the building. I have math leaders in the building. I have teacher leaders… because (other) teachers will listen to them where they may not listen to me,” said Kaiser.

In her ninth year at Huntertown, she described the school’s professional learning communities as being an asset that encourages teachers to work together.

“We’re always willing to try new things,” said Richardson.

“…How can we do it better?”

Teachers have also embraced the Kagan learning structures that encourage students to work together, said Kaiser.

“We have a bunch of creative kids,” said fifth-grade teacher Kim Hartley. “They’re like little sponges. They want to learn. And they want to do well.”

A total of 349 public and private schools across the country received the coveted Blue Ribbon award affirming the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging content, the press release stated.

“I think this is a great recognition for what they’ve done as a school to really just go to an extremely high level,” Hawkins said. Woodford County Public Schools has only had one other National Blue Ribbon School – Southside Elementary in 1998-99.

“I don’t think there is any school in Woodford County that isn’t doing great things,” said Hartley, who spent nine years at Northside Elementary before coming to Huntertown. She described the school district as “a Blue Ribbon county.”

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