Wednesday afternoon was a time for O’Loughlin Elementary School Eagles to soar.

The school had much to celebrate: grants for classrooms and new playground equipment, the district’s master teacher, a national board certified teacher and — Wednesday’s most celebrated accomplishment — being named a National Elementary and Secondary Education Act Distinguished School by the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators.

O’Loughlin was only one of 100 schools in the country that received the award, and it was based on exceptional student performance for two consecutive years. The school also received the distinction in 2013.

While the student performance is judged on assessments, O’Loughlin’s success can be attributed to more than that, Principal Vickie Giles said.

“We try to get the kids to understand that there’s more than just the Kansas assessments. It starts in kindergarten with every type of assessment they do just to see if they’re proficient in all the skills we need,” she said.

The school also implements the CHAMPS classroom management system to teach behavior expectations for students. The research-based program is designed to help implement positive and proactive behavior. Posters throughout the school with a bald eagle encourage students “Don’t just fly … SOAR” and outlines the values the school staff decided on:

• Show your integrity

• Own your learning

• Accept Responsibility

• Respect self and others

“Those were some of the things we needed to teach our kids,” Giles said.

This year, the school also gave each grade a value word for the students to learn about such as “grit,” “perseverance,” “integrity” and “determination.”

Students from each grade presented their class word on a banner Wednesday while their classmates cheered and waved ribbons in the school’s colors.

Those values are presented as part of the school’s Morning News

“It has the traditional things like lunch, weather, maybe activities that are going on, but then it has very concrete messages about one of those internalizing values that we wanted the kids learning about,” Giles said.

“The kids have been interviewed to tell what they think integrity is or to tell what they responsibility is,” she said.

Because those messages are delivered by students, the children tend to listen more. The staff has even noticed the younger students using the bigger words.

“They start using those words because they see the kids on the screen use those words,” she said.

“It’s not perfect yet. We still have some glitches and we still have some behaviors that don’t meet those expectations, but at least we have a direction, and we have something to be consistent with. By the time they become fifth graders and move on, it’s pretty internalized and ingrained,” she said.

Several O’Loughlin teachers were recognized for their accomplishments this year:

• Denise Danielson, Amber Binder, Nicole Cullison and Gina Johnson receive Limeades for Learning grants from Sonic for classroom projects.

• Kristy Oborny, fourth grade teacher and media specialist, received a grant for the school to create a One School, One Book program in which each student will receive a copy of the same book to take home and read with their parents.

• Oborny was also recognized for earning National Board Certification in literacy.

• Reading teacher Laura Gaughan was recognized as USD 489’s Master Teacher of the Year.