Allegan County News & Union Enterprise

Four OPS schools named National Showcase Schools

Staff members at Alamo Elementary School receive the news that their school was named a National Showcase School. (Photo provided)
Dix Street Elementary staff and students react to being named a Showcase School for the third straight year.
OMS principal Melissa Koenig (left) and assistant principal Mark Trumley were all smiles after being named a Showcase School for the third year in a row. (Photo provided)
Washington Street principal Jennifer Knight (right) and counselor Angela Bender cheer after their school was named a Showcase School. (Photo provided)

By Jason Wesseldyk
Sports Editor

In 2020, two schools in the Otsego Public Schools district received the distinction of being named a National Showcase School, with that number growing to three last year.
This year, four Otsego schools were among the 377 selected for this nationwide honor.
Dix Street Elementary School and Otsego Middle School have been National Showcase Schools for three straight years, while this was the second straight year for Washington Street Elementary. Alamo Elementary School is a first-time honoree.
The organization Capturing Kids’ Hearts, founded in 1990 by psychotherapist Flip Flippen as a way of providing educators with the training and tools to better connect with students, sponsors the award.
“Through the National Showcase Schools awards, Capturing Kids’ Hearts recognizes and celebrates schools that go the extra mile each day, creating the social-emotional safety on school campuses that is conducive to learning,” the organization said in a press release. “Because of the rigor of our evaluation process, the Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase School award is both a high aspiration and an exemplary recognition of excellence.
“Capturing Kids’ Hearts is proud to recognize the outstanding educators who have dedicated themselves to making a difference in the lives of our children. Please join in and celebrate the remarkable work they have accomplished.”
Although this is the third straight year Dix Street has been named a National Showcase School, it is the first time with Mark VanderKlok as its principal.
Former principal Mark Rollandini moved to another position within the district at the start of this school year.
VanderKlok firmly believes in Capturing Kids’ Hearts mission to “equip professionals in K-12 education to implement transformational processes focused on social-emotional wellbeing, relationship-driven campus culture and student connectedness.”
“I believe this national distinction is important not just for the award itself, but for how it highlights the staff’s priority in relationships first,” he said. “We believe that students won’t hear anything we have to say until they know that we love and care about them first.
“The Capturing Kids Hearts program has allowed our staff to work together with common language and procedures to ensure that every student in our school knows they are cared for and are heard daily.
“This recognition is truly an honor, but the overall sense of family is the real reason why we can always say, ‘It’s a great day to be a Bulldog.’”
Capturing Kids’ Hearts began in 1990 with a small group of educators in Flippen’s hometown of College Station, Texas. In the three-plus decades that have followed, the program has grown to include more than 37,000 educators nationwide each year.
Alamo Elementary principal Nicole Knight-Lucas said the program couldn’t be a better fit for the staff at her school.
“The heart of our building centers around relationships,” she said. “It truly has a family feeling inside and outside our walls between students, parents and staff. Our staff works tirelessly to make every student feel valued and that they have a purpose. They are the epitome of the Capturing Kids Hearts model that states, ‘You can’t have a child’s head until you have their heart.’
“The staff truly gives 110 percent day in and day out. It is an honor and a blessing to work with such dedicated and personable staff. They are more than deserving of such honorable recognition.”
Like Knight-Lucas, VanderKlok pointed out the family atmosphere at his school and how Capturing Kids’ Hearts helps foster that environment.
“Student voice is a huge part of the Capturing Kids Hearts program, which I believe sets it apart from many other programs out there,” he said. “Students have the opportunity to practice and take ownership in the process which has helped build strong relationships amongst our students.
“The way our school body, both students and staff care about each other is extremely unique. We refer to ourselves as a school family regularly. That is not by mistake. We celebrate our peaks and support each other in our valleys.
“Beyond the program itself, the school as a whole genuinely embraces each other. Capturing Kids Hearts simply helps foster the genuine support we have for one another.”

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