By Susan Riddell
When William H. Natcher Elementary School (Cloverport Independent) was named a 2010 National Blue Ribbon School, the award might as well have been given to the city of Cloverport.
“Our community is small, so our school is our community,” said teacher Deborah Smith, who is a product of the district and is in her 26th year teaching at Natcher Elementary. “Our community is and will always play a major part in our activities held here at school.”
Located in Breckinridge County midway between Louisville and Owensboro, Natcher Elementary is not only a major hub of Cloverport, it is the hub, according to Principal Dwayne Bishop.
“Natcher Elementary is the heart of our small community,” he said, “providing multiple services for students in preschool through 5th grade, including weekend and summer feeding programs, a variety of extracurricular activities, a family resource center, and academic services extended beyond the school day and year.”
Natcher Elementary, housed with Frederick Fraize Middle School and Frederick Fraize High School, has an enrollment of 200 students.
Smith, who teaches 2nd and 3rd grades, said she makes a point to teach her students Cloverport history by visiting local businesses to learn what they do and what they remember about the community.
The school also has a fitness center open to the public, and adults can participate in Zumba, dance, aerobics and yoga classes.
“We have an excellent volunteer program for our school that people in our community can be involved in if they wish to help our students,” Smith added.
Natcher Elementary provides community reading resources, too. The school library doubles as the city library and provides an adult library club for community members. “It is a great combination and works well for us,” Smith said. “If we have a need and our library doesn’t have the resource then it will contact our county library to help with the resources needed.”
Reasons for success
According to Superintendent John Millay, staff at Natcher Elementary knows each of the students and their families very well and do whatever is needed to assist each child. He added that the staff also is very consistent with implementing new strategies or programs.
“Change is just a way of life in our district, and the staff adapts exceptionally well as they understand the unique needs of our small district and community,” Millay said. “I think being truly focused on a shared vision and mission to continually improve has made a big difference.
“The test scores of each student and class are taken very personally by the staff, and they do whatever is needed to improve student achievement.”
Fifth-grade teacher Rebecca Embry said teachers strive to have a deep understanding of the core content.
“We use both formative and summative assessments in order to tailor lessons to meet the needs of each student,” Embry said. “By analyzing weekly assessments, teachers further know their students’ strengths and weaknesses and are able to guide lessons accordingly. This allows for positive student growth.”
Smith said Natcher Elementary staff went to great lengths to make sure scores improved. Incorporating weekly assessments into the curriculum was one part of that.
“Students were taught some basic test-taking skills, and we also addressed the open-response format,” Smith said. “Doing these things gave our students the confidence and knowledge needed to perform well on our state assessments.”
Principal Bishop said teachers are encouraged to follow the school’s motto “DARE to be great.” DARE stands for Decisions, Actions, Resources and Excellent Environment.
“Our staff has assumed full responsibility for educating all of our students,” Bishop said.
“Teachers have the will to find the way to help each student become academically successful. This typically begins with a foundation of good relationships between student, teacher and home.
“Staff members work together to become familiar with our families and then to help meet their unique needs,” Bishop added. “Maintaining high expectations is another central component in our school’s success. All staff members are well aware of what students are expected to know and do.
“Rigorous classroom instruction and continued focus on student progress toward achieving learning goals enables our staff to move students to the highest levels of achievement.”
Smith said achievement for students during the day is balanced with after-school opportunities. These include public speaking, fundamentals of basketball for boys and girls, cheerleading, dance, Lego Club, holiday crafts, cooking classes, after-school tutoring and more.
And like the students, teachers also bond and collaborate during after-school hours.
“We plan various culminating activities that we do together as a whole school. Also we have a monthly ‘ladies night out’ so we can get to know each other outside of the work environment,” Smith said. “Teacher collaboration in our school is ongoing. Our teachers have common planning time daily to discuss the needs of students. When we receive our new classroom of students each year we share pertinent information that will be a benefit for both the teacher and the students. We share materials and supplies as needed.”
MORE INFO …
Dwayne Bishop, firstname.lastname@example.org, (270) 788-3388