Over 350 schools, both public and private, were recognized at a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School ceremony Nov. 14 and 15 in Washington, D.C.
Tri-City United Lonsdale Elementary School was one of 10 Minnesota schools honored at the ceremony. The state originally nominated 16 schools.
Principal Mollie Meyer, Superintendent Teri Preisler and second-grade teacher and instructional leader Abby Brockway accepted the national award on behalf of TCU Lonsdale. Meanwhile, the school’s students watched a live broadcast of the award ceremony in their classrooms.
“It was definitely a very proud moment to be a Titan,” said Brockway. “The reason we won was because of all [the students’] hard work along with the teachers, staff and all of their work.”
After being nominated for the honor by the state, Meyer, Brockway and Curriculum Coordinator Matt Flugum completed a lengthy application for the national award.
“It was a really great reflective process to take the great work we do and synthesize it into a 10-page application,” said Meyer.
Added Brockway: “That was a long process. We really wanted to capture what TCU Lonsdale is like and how it feels like family.”
Brockway said the application involved explaining the different methodologies TCU Lonsdale uses to meet the needs of all learners. At TCU Lonsdale, teachers and staff aim to make the learning experience personal by lending students opportunities to make their own choices according to the ways they best learn. That involves flexible seating and different options for homework assignments.
Meyer received word that TCU Lonsdale Elementary had been selected as one of 362 National Blue Ribbon Schools at the end of September. Based on the school’s application and its status as one of the highest performing schools in the state, TCU Lonsdale was named among the Exemplary High Performing Schools in the nation. Other schools were recognized as Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools.
Meyer said “the big, shining moment” of being recognized was the award ceremony itself, but that was just a fraction of Washington, D.C., trip. She and Preisler and Brockway also participated in learning and professional engagement opportunities in the conference center.
In “world cafe” sessions, educators across the nation discussed topics like how school districts can be innovative in serving the social and emotional needs of students. Meyer said these sessions focused on creating opportunities across the nation and leveraging those ideas on a smaller scale within each district. Receiving confirmation that TCU Lonsdale is on par with other schools in the country, Meyer said she “came away with a huge sense of pride.”
“My biggest takeaway of the whole trip was the impact of the dialogue with the folks we met,” said Meyer. “We definitely learned things from other folks we can take back here [to TCU Lonsdale].”
Rodney Robinson, the National Teacher of the Year from Richmond, Virginia, gave a speech about his teaching experience at a juvenile detention center. His talk, said Meyer, explored the topics of equity and cultural responsiveness with the core message of teaching to the heart of each child.
One high point for Brockway was listening to Erin Gruell, the teacher who authored the 1999 non-fiction book “The Freedom Writers Diary” with 150 of her students, give a speech at the ceremony. Brockway also enjoyed hearing a student’s perspective, networking, and learning about the other National Blue Ribbon schools.
Even though the trip was a great experience, Meyer said she couldn’t wait to return to TCU Lonsdale and work to make the school even better.
“This award isn’t the end,” she said. “It’s a beginning.”