Pictured above – the Laker Elementary staff
Laker Elementary recently received an award for putting an emphasis on supporting students in areas beyond academics, and it was the only school in the state to receive this recognition.
The Michigan Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) and the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association (MEMPSA) chose Laker Elementary as the first recipient of the Whole Child Award. This award seeks to identify schools in Michigan that have created a school culture with programs that exemplify one of the five tenets of this Initiative: Healthy, Safe, Supported, Challenged or Engaged.
“Principal Kathy Dickens submitted an extraordinary application highlighting the Whole Child Tenet, Engaged,” stated a press release about the award. “Laker Elementary’s wide variety of after-school clubs, in-school service-based projects, community partnerships, and parent support ensure their students have a well-rounded learning environment.”
Laker Elementary’s mission is to “be dedicated and committed to challenge and encourage all students to reach their highest potential. Through a comprehensive curriculum and a caring educational environment, Laker students will be prepared to excel in a global society.”
To meet this mission, the school works to “combine their goals of engagement, social emotional health, and physical health, (along with) natural and sensory sensitive playground equipment for all students to benefit from,” the press release stated. “Kathy is committed to her school, community, and each and every student under her care. As stated in her application, (the school) will turn no opportunity away, regardless of the time and effort involved, if it will benefit even a small number of students”.
The application details the many after-school opportunities offered at Laker Elementary, which spans from sports to arts to technology. The school’s emphasis on project-based and service-based projects is detailed, along with the school’s strong relationships with community organizations and businesses. Another part of the application mentioned parent involvement and how parents help in many areas, providing not only academic support, but extra clothes for students in need and materials for projects.
“Many visitors to Laker Elementary report that we have such an incredible environment,” Dickens wrote in the application. “Visiting teachers and administrators (ask) how we made our school environment so warm, welcoming and engaging. Visitors to our building for community events also frequently comment on the positivity that hums through the building. In large part, this buzz exists because every teacher is here for the right reason. They are passionate about the whole child – academically, socially, emotionally, financially and physically. It is a palpable sense of compassion and care that exists in our building, a very special place for children to learn and grow.”
In the application, Dickens shares how dedicated the teachers are to making sure students receive a high-quality educational experience.
“Laker Elementary teachers give their hearts, their souls, their personal time and often their personal funds to make sure their students get a top-notch education in a small, rural low socio-economic community,” she stated. “Their contributions and their dedication certainly have resulted in a high level of engagement and achievement. For this reason, this fine team of educators is deserving of this award. I know for certain that our entire community would agree with me.”
Superintendent Brian Keim is very pleased the elementary is being recognized with this award.
“I couldn’t be prouder to see an award like this land in our district,” Keim said. “In terms of core values, Whole Child Award recipients are those whose children are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. That covers nearly everything that is important to us, so being recognized as that kind of school is a true honor. This award confirms some things we’ve known for a long time about our elementary. We have outstanding teachers, support staff, parents, and administration in that building who all work together to provide the best experience possible for our young learners. The moment you walk in the door and witness the interactions between our staff and students, you know its a unique and special place.”
Keim commended Dickens for her servant leadership and compassion for students.
“She will be quick to deflect praise, but this award is a reflection of her strong commitment to children,” he said.
Dickens said the Whole Child award is a truly fitting award for Laker Elementary.
“Students are truly the center of everything we do here and we understand that there is more to educating a child then just academics,” she said. “The award sets Laker Elementary apart from other schools. I believe that the award recognizes the mission and purpose that drives every staff member to do their very best for each student. When asked if they can take on a new project or serve students in a new way, all staff members respond with ‘I can do that!’ They go above and beyond in many ways to support our students, with nothing expected in return, except for the smile from a child or the ‘Oh I get it now!’ response. Being an educator is not a job that we do. It is a lifestyle that we choose.”
Dickens said Laker Elementary staffers approach projects and ideas as a united group, with one purpose in mind – providing students with the best educational experience possible.
Laker Elementary will receive the Whole Child award at the MEMPSA conference in December, and the school will receive $2,500 that will be used for sensory playground equipment, Dickens said.
The Whole Child Award ceremony. Pictured from the left, Paul Liabenow, Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association executive director; Sheila Alles, Michigan Department of Education interim superintendent; Kathy Dickens, Shannon Popham and Michelle Fritz from Laker Elementary; Melissa Usiak, Michigan Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development executive director; Dr. L Earl Franks, CAE executive director of National Association of Elementary School Principals; and Eric Carnell, National Association of Elementary School Principals president.