Kyrene de la Sierra Elementary School in Ahwatukee has received a National Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education.
Sierra is the second Kyrene school to receive the prestigious award – Kyrene Traditional Academy received one in 2015 – and is one of five in Arizona to get the award this year.
The Blue Ribbon Program recognizes public and private schools for overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
Sierra’s award is in the category of Exemplary High Performing Schools, ranking it among the nation’s highest performing schools.
“The National Blue Ribbon School award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging content,” the department says on its website, noting that Sierra will now receive a flag that “is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning.”
The honor is shared by former Principal Lisa Connor – who is now principal of Ninos Elementary in Tempe – and current Principal Brian Gibson. Both travel to Washington, D.C., in November for the recognition ceremony honoring more than 300 schools across the country.
“I just want to say thank you and congratulations to all of the Sierra staff who put in so much effort to make this happen,” said Connor. “I’m also very proud of Sierra students, for being such hard workers.”
Gibson added, “It is an amazing achievement. The National Blue Ribbon is one of the reasons I am so proud to be the principal here, so I can continue to build on this work and to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of our students.”
Kyrene Superintendent Jan Vesely hailed the “tremendous honor” and said, “I am incredibly proud of the Sierra staff and students for all they have accomplished under the leadership of first, Principal Connor and now, Principal Gibson.”
Sierra, with almost 560 pre-K-to-5th-grade students and a teacher-student ratio of 1-25, also is an A+ School of Excellence.
“We pride ourselves in tradition because we feel that the emphasis placed on education results in a student and staff population that is dedicated to increasing rigor and student learning,” the school said in its application to the U.S. Education Department.
“We expect academic excellence and continually strive to improve the art of teaching and the learning experiences of our students,” it added. “We do this by providing real-life examples and experiences during their learning. Our philosophy is that we are lifelong learners and strive for continual growth.”