Pender Public Schools hosted a special ceremony Tuesday afternoon at Heese Event Center to mark a special national recognition by the United States Department of Education.
Being one of just four Nebraska schools to earn status as a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School merited visits and speeches from Governor Pete Ricketts and Miss Nebraska Allison Tietjen, as well as Nebraska State Board of Education member Rachel Wise of Oakland.
Other speakers included Pender board of education president Matt Peters, longtime Pender Elementary and retired teacher Rae Brown and Nebraska District 17 state senator Joni Albrecht.
Ricketts and Tietjen toured all four Nebraska schools that earned the designation, making other stops at Calvert Elementary in Auburn, Dundee Elementary and Paddock Road Elementary in Omaha.
The governor made a proclamation calling Tuesday “Blue Ribbon School Day” in Nebraska.
“These schools are setting the standard for other teams of students, parents, teachers and administrators who want to achieve a high level of academic excellence,” Ricketts said. “A great education can make all of the difference in a student’s success now, and for a lifetime.”
Ricketts also pointed out to the students that there are six classifications for state football champions in Nebraska, but only four that earned Blue Ribbon status.
“See, it’s easier to win a state championship in football than to be a Blue Ribbon School,” he said.
Tietjen told the students how much they inspire her.
“It is truly a privilege to congratulate these incredible educators and students in person,” Tietjen said. “I am a proud product of Nebraska public schools as a graduate of Thayer Central. It is wonderful and inspiring to see our state continue to excel in education, no doubt producing our future leaders.”
Peters told the crowd that he always knew that Pender Public Schools was a high quality place, noting many of the things the board, staff and students have worked on feverishly over the years.
“And now everyone else knows it, too,” Peters said.
Brown, who taught at the school for more than 40 years, described the process of identifying needs in students and charting points of emphasis from her very first day as a teacher in Pender in the early 1970s. And while the tools might be different today with computers doing much of the graphing, Brown noted that staying on the cutting edge of teaching and evaluating students began then but is alive and well now.
An essay contest organized by teacher Megan Nixon resulted in overall winners in three age groups. Those students went to the microphone and read their essays on what makes Pender a Blue Ribbon School.
Caleb Kelly represented students in grades 4-6, Kylie Roeber grades 2-3 and Joy Trimble those in kindergarten and first grade.
Both superintendent Jason Dolliver and elementary principal Kelly Ballinger also took turns at the podium. There were performances by the 7-12th grade band and elementary honor choir.
The school was presented its special plaque in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. last week. The Pender Booster Club purchased three banners that will hang in different parts of the campus.