PORT ANGELES — Ask anybody at Hamilton Elementary School and they’ll all say the same thing: Hamilton Elementary is a family.
That is among the reasons the Port Angeles elementary school earned the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s national Whole Child Award over the weekend.
Each year the nonprofit recognizes one school for “educating the whole child to actions that result in learners who are knowledgeable, emotionally and physically healthy, civically active, artistically engaged, prepared for economic self-sufficiency and ready for the world beyond formal schooling,” according to ASCD.
At Hamilton Elementary, everyone — including volunteers, teachers, para-educators administrators and families — works together to help students improve, said many of those who work there.
Mike Daniels, school custodian, often fist-bumps and high-fives students passing in the halls or will correct their behavior as needed, they said.
Daniels, who has worked at the school for 29 years, said the students might as well be his own children.
“It’s like a family here,” he said. “It’s like watching one of my kids run down the hall. You say ‘hey, slow down son.’”
Krista Winn, the school’s physical education teacher, was among several people from the school who traveled to Boston, Mass., over the weekend to accept the award.
“I think it’s an amazing recognizing for our school,” said Winn, who was in 2006 named the national physical fitness teacher of the year. “I didn’t realize what a big thing it was until we were in Boston.”
What she learned in Boston is that not every school is like Hamilton.
She said others were impressed that at Hamilton all staff are treated as equals and everyone works together.
“We’re all supporting each other,” she said. “We’re not just in our own places.”
Winn said she and another teacher applied for the award last year on a whim. She saw the criteria the nonprofit was looking for and thought “this sounds like they’re looking for Hamilton,” she said.
The school won an award on the state level last year, but Winn was not expecting to earn the national award and being recognized above all other schools in the country this year.
“We never dreamt at the beginning that we would end up at the national level,” she said.
As a Fuel Up to Play school, Hamilton integrates health, nutrition, and physical fitness into school activities and curriculum.
Usage of a filtered water station increased from 8 percent to 72 percent during a single academic year.
The Families in Training program encourages families to be healthy and active through monthly challenges and family fitness nights.
Hamilton also provides the Rainbow Runners Club, a Unicycle Club and a breakfast program for all students. As of 2016, 78 percent of Hamilton students met four or more Healthy Fitness Zone Standards, up from 32 percent in 2010.
“Hamilton Elementary School demonstrates dedication to the whole child approach to education. Distinguishing themselves from schools across the nation, Hamilton has gone above and beyond to ensure that every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged,” said Deborah S. Delisle, ASCD CEO and executive director, in a news release.
“Hamilton Elementary School is raising the bar for schools and educators around the world.”
The school’s principal, Gary Pringle, said he takes no credit for the school’s achievements, but credits everyone else at the school for making it possible.
“It’s a true testament to the work that the staff have put in, that the students and the Hamilton families put in,” he said. “And I’m not saying that because that’s what you’re supposed to say.”
Pringle, a former paratrooper with the U.S. Army, said his philosophy as an administrator comes from his time in the military.
“The people that are doing the work deserve the credit and my teachers are in the trenches every day and they are the ones who are working hard with the students and the families,” he said.
“All I do is just try to make sure everything runs as smoothly possible.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].