This story has been updated.
Soldotna Montessori Charter staff and students took Friday morning to reflect and celebrate their national achievement during a school assembly, which was student-led and centered on the socioemotional growth and academic achievement of the kids.
The charter school was recognized as a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education in September — one of 325 schools nationwide and the only one in Alaska.
The Department of Education recognizes schools for either outstanding academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps. Soldotna Montessori was nominated in the exemplary high performing schools category.
John DeVolld, the principal of the elementary school, said after Friday’s assembly that while the Blue Ribbon is an honor, for him the honor comes from interacting with the kids every day.
“I feel like we’re a Blue Ribbon school everyday,” he said.
DeVolld made the trip to Washington, D.C., in November to accept the award on the school’s behalf.
He said what made him particularly proud on Friday was the amount of effort the kids put into the assembly. The students spoke in front of parents, teachers and peers about what it means to attend a Blue Ribbon school.
“It was just fun to see the kids share the information that they were passionate about,” DeVolld said. “They did a lot of research, they put in a lot of effort, but for me it was just the giddy passion that they had as the day drew near.”
The kids who led Friday morning’s assembly were part of Terri Carter’s combined fourth, fifth and sixth grade classroom.
Carter said she was impressed by her students’ ability to assume leadership roles during Friday’s honor assembly.
“I think it’s easy to often underestimate someone who’s only 10, but when they’re given the privilege and opportunity to work together and to practice and to refine, some pretty great things can happen,” she said.
One of Carter’s favorite aspects of Soldotna Montessori is that, much like Friday’s assembly, a lot of curriculum programming is student-led.
“We just empower them to make decisions and to be responsible and to project their own thinking in those ways, and to represent their thinking, thoughts and ideas — it’s a pretty powerful situation,” Carter said.
Soldotna Mayor Paul Whitney, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Clayton Holland and school board member Penny Vadla spoke at the school Friday to congratulate the kids for their Blue Ribbon achievement.
Whitney emphasized the importance of education as a “pathway to a brighter and fulfilling future.” Holland said the award “gives our whole school district pride.” Vadla encouraged the kids to practice kindness and maintain “a strong sense of curiosity in the world.”
Students who presented at the honor assembly on Friday were Abigail Grilley, Solomon Hollingsworth, Cheyenne Gillham, Alexis Verba, Aurora Oostman, Avi Bloom, Ben Schlegel, Cierra Stuyvesant, Easton Chilla, Ethan Anderson, Hadley Kornelis, Hudson Morris, Iliana Rogers, Isobel Brantly, Naomi Bailey, Parker Cannava, Pollyanna Markabee, Sophia Love, Shea Linton, Sophia Johnson, Steven DeBarbeladen, Tolson Hall, and Violet Williams. Arista Vansickle was absent.
State Commissioner of Education Michael Johnson congratulated students and faculty in video to played during Soldotna Montessori’s assembly.