How teamwork makes Naperville's Meadow Glens School a Blue Ribbon winner
Some of the youngest students at Meadow Glens Elementary in Naperville pile into a colorful classroom stocked with books and separated by small dividers into five distinct areas.
If it's any day but Friday, these are kindergartners or first-graders heading into their special time in the school's new reading room.
In its second year, the reading room is a place for all young students to receive personalized or small-group instruction in literacy strategies so they can build a strong foundation.
It's not a place for punishment or a tutoring room where only struggling students go. But it is a place where Meadow Glens educators can show off their best skill: working together to ensure the success of all students, not just those assigned to their class.
After all, the school's slogan this year is "We're better together."
"We try really hard not to think of 'this is my classroom, these are my students,'" reading specialist Christy Miller said. "We think of all of the children at Meadow Glens as all of our students. We're here for every single child at Meadow Glens."
That teamwork mindset is part of what sets Meadow Glens apart, school leaders say, as one of eight suburban schools named this year as National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. The school is one of 335 across the nation -- and one of five in DuPage County -- to earn the honor.
"What we want to see is growth in every single student," Principal Katy Lynch said. "Our teachers own this process."
Teachers at Meadow Glens in Naperville Unit District 203 are working with about 460 students, among them students who speak 12 languages other than English and 30 of whom are classified as English language learners. Some may be learning English as their third or fourth language, Lynch said, so an early focus on reading proficiency for all is important.
That's why educators devised the reading room concept last year.
Four days a week, kindergarten and first-grade students spend part of their day in the reading room, staffed not only by reading specialist Miller but also by an English language learners teacher, an instructional assistant or assistants, a special education assistant if needed and a classroom teacher. Five adults in all work together during each reading room session so full classes can be broken down into small groups of students based on their needs.
Some might get independent reading time similar to the reading workshops already held within classrooms. Others might get a lesson on a reading strategy. All get more personalized attention than they would if teachers weren't willing to help each other out and spend time instructing students assigned to someone else's class.
Even as technology advances and gets incorporated further into classrooms, it's still about the people, Lynch says.
People -- teachers -- are the ones who learn to use technology not just for its own sake but to truly connect to what students are learning. People are the ones who work together to analyze student test results and figure out who's struggling with what and how to help. People are the key to teamwork and, therefore, to education.
"We really look at our human resources to serve all," Lynch said.
A different class of people -- parents -- are the true stars in the eyes of Meadow Glens learning support coach Deb Mitchler.
Parents, Mitchler says, are the ones who make sure their kids are prepared for kindergarten from Day 1, reading to them to strengthen vocabulary and making sure they're nourished before school.
Parents are the ones who shuttle their kids to and from all the extracurricular activities Meadow Glens offers, a "well-rounded" set of opportunities that includes STEM nights, sports, and clubs for engineering, Legos, chess, literature, art and running.
"We have families that totally back the education process and make sure every child comes to school prepared and ready to learn," Mitchler said. "That's a nice piece for us here at Meadow Glens -- that our families are so supportive in what we do."
Mitchler and Lynch will travel to Washington, D.C., next month for a ceremony recognizing all Blue Ribbon schools. Then, together with the rest of the school's staff of 21 teachers, 10 specialists, two administrators, three student support personnel and 12 other professionals, they'll keep working to make the award-winning school even better.
"I really do think here at Meadow Glens we do prepare all students for success," Mitchler said. "We do that because our teachers work together."
About this seriesFive DuPage County schools recently were named National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education and will be honored Nov. 9-10 in Washington, D.C.
Today we're celebrating Meadow Glens Elementary in Naperville Unit District 203. Next week we'll feature Emerson Elementary in Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200, and then in following weeks we'll celebrate May Watts Elementary in Indian Prairie Unit District 204 and Butler Junior High in Oak Brook Elementary District 53. We began the series last week by featuring Longfellow Elementary in District 200.