Innovation, personalization keys to Butler Junior High's success

Small size, innovative curriculum set Blue Ribbon-winner Butler Junior High apart

Roughly 180 students pass through the halls each day inside Butler Junior High School in Oak Brook.

Some take classes in the broadcast studio, working together to write scripts, produce films and edit videos for their fellow students.

Seventh-graders earlier this month set forth on a trip to Philadelphia - a Butler tradition started just last year by Principal Amy Read - to explore history first hand.

Meanwhile, others are keeping up with technology, completing class reports and projects on Chromebooks.

But an innovative curriculum like this is only part of the reason the school is being recognized as a National Blue Ribbon Award winner by the U.S. Department of Education. This is the second time in a decade the school has earned the honor, having earned it in 2006, and Butler is the only junior high in Illinois on the list this year.

The education department honored 335 schools across the country - including five in DuPage County - this year with the National Blue Ribbon Award, its highest distinction. Butler's sister school in Butler School District 53, Brook Forest Elementary, earned the honor last fall.

Principal Read says the Blue Ribbon has come not only because of the challenging classes and high-tech resources at Butler, but also thanks to the commitment of the entire Butler community.

"I consider myself one of the most fortunate people working in education right now since I have had the honor of being part of three schools that have earned Blue Ribbon Awards," Read said, speaking of her previous roles at Sandburg Middle School in Elmhurst and Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. "The common factor between all three schools is the level of commitment and dedication from the students, staff, parents, school board and the entire community. You really can't do this by yourself."

Another strength, she said, is Butler's small size. Read says it allows both herself and teachers to get to know students personally, meeting their parents and learning their personalities and interests as well as their challenges.

"The size makes this an incredible place," she said. "When you can get to know kids at such a personal level, you can make correct decisions about the direction of the curriculum."

Read, Superintendent Heidi Wennstrom and a chosen teacher will travel to Washington D.C. for a National Blue Ribbon Award ceremony Nov. 9-10. And while Read says the Blue Ribbon gives the entire Butler community reason to celebrate, it does not give them permission to rest on their laurels.

"This award is a confirmation that what you're doing is working, but you never want to remain status quo. We're not done," Read said. "We still want to reach each child at their individual levels of interest and ability."

  Kim Krupicka teaches STEM classes at Butler Junior High in Oak Brook, where technology is integrated into the curriculum in STEM classes, in the broadcast studio and through the use of Chromebooks. Daniel White/
  Kevin Feng plots temperature data in a sun oven during a STEM class at Butler Junior High in Oak Brook. The school's small size allows teachers and staff to get to know kids individually. Daniel White/
  Butler Junior High students Annabelle Mullins, left, and Karina Khanna construct a car during STEM classes. The school's use of technology and innovation contributed to its selection as a National Blue Ribbon School. Daniel White/
  Serene Safvi, left, and Riley Conway, right, perfect their Photoshop techniques at Butler Junior High in Oak Brook. Butler is one of five DuPage County schools to win recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School. Daniel White/

About this series

Five DuPage County schools recently were named National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education and will be honored Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 9 and 10, in Washington, D.C.

Today we're celebrating Butler Junior High in Oak Brook Elementary District 53. Next week, we'll conclude the series by celebrating May Watts Elementary in Indian Prairie Unit District 204. We began the series by featuring <a href="">Longfellow Elementary</a> in Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200, <a href="">Meadow Glens Elementary</a> in Naperville Unit District 203, and <a href="">Emerson Elementary</a> in District 200.

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