SOUTH BEND — St. Joseph Grade School, an educational ministry of St. Joseph Parish in the Diocese of Fort Wayne‐South Bend, has been named a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. This is the second time that St. Joseph Grade School has received the distinction, having previously been named a National Blue Ribbon School in 2011.
St. Joseph is one of just 50 non-public schools across the U.S. to receive the honor this year, and the first nonpublic elementary school in Indiana to receive the award since 2015.
St. Joseph has also earned recognition as an Indiana Four Star School each year from 2011 to 2018, the only school in South Bend and in the diocese to have done so.
“I want to congratulate our students, teachers, staff, parents, and parishioners, and thank them all for their hard work and support in providing our students with an exemplary Catholic education,” said George Azar, principal at St. Joseph.
The National Blue Ribbon recognition is earned by schools that not only perform well on benchmark tests, but exemplify best practices within the classroom and greater school community, Azar explained.
“Our mission of educating hearts and minds in the Holy Cross tradition, making God known, loved, and served is at the center of everything that we do here at St. Joseph Grade School. Our practices reflect this mission in numerous ways, from our unique and dynamic literature-based curriculum to our service learning projects and Christ-centered development.”
On Sept. 26, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recognized 362 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2019. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
“We recognize and honor your important work in preparing students for successful careers and meaningful lives,” said DeVos in a video message to the honorees. “As a National Blue Ribbon School, your school demonstrates what is possible when committed educators hold all students and staff to high standards and create vibrant, innovative cultures of teaching and learning.”
The coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.
Now in its 37th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed recognition on more than 9,000 schools. On Nov. 14 and 15, the Secretary and the Department of Education will celebrate with 312 public and 50 nonpublic school honorees at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Joseph Brettnacher, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, commended SJGS and its peer diocesan schools.
“Congratulations to the pastor, administration, faculty, staff, students, parents, and St. Joseph Grade School community on this achievement. The diocese is proud of the fact that all 43 of our Catholic schools provide their students with a holistic education. Our students continually cultivate their relationship with Jesus Christ, develop Catholic values and morals, and grow spiritually, intellectually, physically, and socially.”
St. Joseph serves boys and girls in preschool through eighth grade. In 2016, St. Joseph Parish completed a $5 million capital project that included a new gymnasium and outdoor green space, as well as new classrooms for science, art, music and the preschool.
St. Joseph Preschool is a Level 4 provider in the Paths to Quality early care and education rating program for the State of Indiana. Level 4 is the top rating a program can earn, after having demonstrated a commitment to the highest level of professionalism in quality early care and education. The preschool is also an Indiana On My Way Pre-K provider, allowing qualifying families to receive grants to attend our program the year before kindergarten.
St. Joseph Grade School is a family committed to academic excellence and Catholic formation in the tradition of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Founded in 1854, its vision of education, inspired by the teachings of Holy Cross founder Blessed Basil Moreau, focuses on educating not only the minds of students, but also their hearts, so that they might make God known, loved and served.
At St. Joseph Grade School, educating the mind begins with a unique literature-based, rather than textbook-based, curriculum as well as a common language of instruction for reading and writing across grades K-8. The school has mastered the craft of teaching by finding the best materials and resources, and implementing cross-curricular subject integration wherever possible. Supplemented by effective instructional strategies and personalized assessment experiences using routine growth data, this dynamic curriculum has been fundamental to academic success at St. Joseph.
Educating hearts and growing together as a family are mission elements lived out each day within the St. Joseph Grade School community. The school embraces Christian community as the context for lifelong formation, and the cultivation of mind and heart enkindles in students the virtue of zeal — a burning desire to use what is learned to serve others. Grade-level service-learning programs culminate with the Summons Project, a capstone program for eighth graders that facilitates discernment of individual gifts and prepares them to continue in service beyond graduation.
Outside the classroom, St. Joseph Grade School offers its students numerous extracurricular activities for further enrichment. Athletic teams participate in the Inter-City Catholic League with other Michiana Catholic schools. The school’s chess club won the 2019 K-3 Indiana State Team Championship. Other offerings include student council, Lego league, choir, strings, band, Latin, Quiz Bowl, scouting, youth group and a eucharistic adoration club.
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