By Jill Kruse-Domeyer
Witness Editorial Assistant
DUBUQUE — This fall, Dubuque’s Resurrection Elementary School received a great honor when it was named a National Blue Ribbon School for 2018 by the U.S. Department of Education.
The recognition was based on Resurrection’s overall academic performance; the school was honored in the category for “exemplary high performing schools.” This is the second time Resurrection has been recognized as a Blue Ribbon School, previously receiving the award in 2009.
“I’m pleased to celebrate with you as your school is named a National Blue Ribbon School,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a video message to Resurrection Elementary and the other award-winning schools.
“We recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives,” DeVos said. “Congratulations on your students’ accomplishments and for your extraordinary commitment to meeting their unique needs.”
In November, Resurrection Principal Denise Grant and Kathleen Konrardy, the school’s special needs resource teacher, both of whom worked on the school’s Blue Ribbon application, traveled to Washington, D.C., for the Blue Ribbon Schools award ceremony. Resurrection was one of 300 public and 49 private schools from around the nation to be honored by the Department of Education at the event.
Since the award was received, members of the Resurrection Elementary community have taken time to reflect on those things that make the school such a special place for its approximately 280 preschool through fifth grade students to grow and learn.
Even the students themselves have given the matter some thought, several of them telling The Witness recently about the individuals who teach them in the classroom each school day. “The teachers are nice,” commented Jake, a Resurrection student in the fourth grade. “Teachers help us read!” added third-grader Ivy. At Resurrection, the “… teachers get to teach you how to do stuff,” said Abby, who is in the school’s first grade.
For Annie, a fifth-grader, it is her fellow students who make Resurrection exceptional. “I like how all the students are kind and helpful and have good relationships with each other,” she said. “And I like how we encourage each other, like when we don’t pass tests!”
Principal Grant said the school’s Catholic identity is also a defining aspect of the Resurrection experience. Students attend school Mass once a week and take turns planning the liturgies. Religion classes are taught daily and reconciliation is regularly made available. Each student is part of a “faith family,” an inter-grade group that works on projects together each month. The school also has a “mid-month mission,” in which the student body comes together to support a different local nonprofit organization.
“Service is embedded into what we do. It’s a huge component of what we do here,” said the principal.
Another key to understanding what make’s Resurrection such a special place, Grant said, is its strong sense of community. She credits the entire Resurrection community, the students and teachers and other staff, but also the students’ parents, Resurrection’s parishioners, the administrators with Dubuque’s Holy Family Catholic Schools system and the Archdiocese of Dubuque, area business people who partner with the school, even local college students who student teach at the school, with working together to create an environment where children can thrive and receive a quality education.
“I think our community is what helped us get this award,” said Grant, of the school’s National Blue Ribbon School designation. “I think it’s the community that makes us such an effective institution.”
Grant said that she and other staff are planning a celebration to commemorate Resurrection’s National Blue Ribbon award to take place during National Catholic Schools Week, which begins next month on Jan. 27. It will include not only Resurrection’s students and parents and teachers, but also previous school principals and members of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary who used to teach at the elementary school. Grant said they’re inviting “the whole kit and caboodle” to the celebration.
“We’ve got our (National Blue Ribbon School) flag, we’ve got our plaque, and when I got back (from Washington, D.C.) I shared that with the students,” Grant said, “but we actually need to have something for our community as well. We couldn’t have done this without the community. It’s what makes us successful.”
Two students at Resurrection Catholic Elementary School in Dubuque display their work in a classroom recently. (Contributed photo)