Top education award goes to Graveraet school

Congratulations go to Graveraet Elementary School in Marquette, which has been designated an Exemplary High Performing Schools National Blue Ribbon School for 2021 by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

It is a prestigious honor: Cardona recognized only 325 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2021, including just 13 schools in Michigan. A school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups is the basis for the award.

Graveraet’s principal Dr. Sarah Kemppainen said in a statement, “I am so proud of our entire staff, all our students and families, everyone here at Graveraet Elementary School, because we all have made a conscious effort and priority over the past seven years to focus on what matters most, meeting the needs of the whole child.

“When students feel safe, have trust in and with us, and know that there are teachers and staff who genuinely care for and love them, they are able to challenge themselves and grow academically, socially and emotionally. While all of us at Graveraet would agree, academic goals matter, we also share a firm belief that no academic goal is worth the soul of a child.”

The essay from Graveraet at nationalblueribbonschools.ed.gov reads:

“Graveraet Elementary School is focused on what is most important in education, the whole child. Through cultivating strong relationships, and sharing a love of learning above everything else with our students and families, our staff (all staff) uphold these priorities. This resides at the heart of all our decisions, allowing us to support all our learners. Instead of spending time searching for the next great thing, we focus on loving our students and teaching them to love learning so that they can be the next great thing.

“A close-knit community with coordinated efforts between our school and public health officials, we work together to ensure each child will be healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged. Growing our students socially, emotionally and academically supports a well-rounded education teaching to the whole child.”

Other unique aspects of Graveraet’s efforts were noted as well, like the school’s 1:1 Chromebook and iPad initiatives which put technology in the hands of all the students, regardless of need, advancing teaching and learning. Also programs it offers — some pre-pandemic — include One School One Book, school-wide monthly positive behavior assemblies and luncheons with the principal, March is Reading month activities including Lights Out Reading in the dark with flashlights and headlamps in Kaufman Auditorium, healthy walk and bike to school days, a Peer to Peer START program and a check-in/check-out program for at-risk students to start and end their days.

“This year’s cohort of honorees demonstrates what is possible when committed educators and school leaders create vibrant, welcoming and affirming school cultures where rich teaching and learning can flourish,” Cardona said in a statement. “I commend all our Blue Ribbon honorees for working to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional and mental health needs. In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect and teach our children.

“Blue Ribbon Schools have so much to offer and can serve as a model for other schools and communities so that we can truly build back better.”

Zack Sedgwick, interim superintendent at Marquette Area Public Schools, also issued a statement.

“Congratulations to Dr. Kemppainen and the students, staff and families of Graveraet Elementary School for the prestigious honor of being named a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School by the United States Department of Education,” Sedgwick said. “This award is testament to their hard work and dedication and I couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishment.”

The entire community should share in this pride in a local school winning such an honor.


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