LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) -- La Crosse's Aquinas Middle School was one of 50 private schools across the U.S. to be named a National, Blue Ribbon School by the Department of Education.
Principal Patty Gallagher-Kosmatka said Aquinas Middle learned it had received the award earlier this month. But students were notified at an assembly Tuesday morning.
"It's so fun to celebrate the hard work of teachers, of the community that supports us, of the investment parents put into the school," she said, "and the hard work of the kids."
To qualify for consideration of a National Blue Ribbon, schools must test in the top 15 percent of either their respective states or the country.
Gallagher-Kosmatka said Aquinas Middle School's standardized test scores put it in the top 15 percent category of both.
But President of Aquinas Catholic Schools, Dr. Kurt Nelson, said the DOE also takes into consideration other factors, like a school's curriculum and teaching techniques, when handing out the ribbons.
"It really is about the teachers and the students," Nelson said. "They're the ones who won the award."
Nelson added he thinks there were a couple of aspects about Aquinas's application for the award that stuck out to the DOE.
"Our teachers and staff are very collaborative. They're working together all the time in many ways to improve the school," he said.
"Also a key part is we don't just try to reach the highest-achieving students," Nelson said. " We've put together a variety of techniques to help students who do have learning challenges and need some extra support."
Gallager-Kosmatka and one of Aquinas Middle's math teachers will travel to Washington, D.C. in November for a special ceremony honoring National Blue Ribbon Schools.
But she said the award is not an end all, be all. Gallagher-Kosmatka said her school's faculty, staff and students will continue to strive for improvement.
"We are blessed with teachers who never settle," she said. "They would not be happy if they couldn't find the new angle, that new thing or new idea to tap into to help our young people."
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