Education feature: Ranchvale nominated for Blue Ribbon School

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Ranchvale second-grade teacher Sheri Robbins helps Vicente Torres with a math assignment Tuesday during class.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Ranchvale Elementary School is one of just three schools in the state nominated for national honors.

Ranchvale is nominated for a Blue Ribbon School designation by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

Winners will be announced in September.

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools that are either academically superior or have demonstrated dramatic gains in student achievement, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Ranchvale parents aren’t surprised the school has been nominated.

Phil Lenfant, father of three sons who attended the school until last summer when the family was relocated to Korea, said a combination of factors makes Ranchvale special.

“What makes Ranchvale an extraordinary success is primarily based on the staff, teachers and the administration,” Lenfant said from Korea via Web cam. “After a couple of months being at Ranchvale, it exceeded all our expectations.”

Lenfant said Principal Suzanne Brockmeier impressed him with her ability to name each student and staff member.

“She was able to talk about each child and staff member like they were a member of this family,” he said.

Lenfant also credited a staff of highly trained and committed teachers for the success of the school.

Parent Doug Johnson brought his daughter Dawn Johnson from the Barry Elementary district to Ranchvale. Dawn was adopted from China and at the beginning, needed extra attention Johnson said.

“In kindergarten, she struggled. She was emotionally, physically and mentally immature. The staff saw that and pounced on it. The people here took the time to give her everything she needed. Most schools treat students like a statistic. They didn’t do that and now she’s succeeding. She’s at the top of her first grade class,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he enjoys the school as much as his daughter.

“I feel comfortable here. I feel I can come in, if I have a concern, I can talk to them about it. I want to go here,” he laughed.

Patty Williams, school librarian and parent of two, lives in Mesa’s school district and chose to bring her two daughters to Ranchvale before she worked at the school.

Williams, whose husband is active military, said when the family moved to Clovis they looked at each elementary school and, based mainly on parent word-of-mouth, chose Ranchvale.

“It’s small and away from town a little bit,” she said. “The first year sold me. Any issue we had, we brought to Suzanne. She makes you feel like your child and your issue are the most important thing.”

Williams said her daughters are high achievers but are continuously challenged at Ranchvale.

“The staff continues to challenge them as students and people. They’re always encouraging them to get to the next level,” she said.

Second grade teacher Sheri Robbins said the nomination honors the teachers. She feels the staff’s out of the box approach makes the school stand out.

“We’re not always about a program. We take the standards a program is trying to achieve and we find the best way to meet those standards in the best interest of ever child,” Robbins said.

She said not being program-based provides a more individualized education for the students.

“Each kid gets what they need when they need it,” Robbins said.

Robbins began teaching at Ranchvale nine years ago. When she graduated from Eastern New Mexico University, she said she was drawn to Ranchvale.

“I wanted to work here because it’s not program-based. It’s about the kids. In most schools, traditional teaching wins out.

Brockmeier said the credit goes to the classroom teachers.

“It’s what they do every day that makes us great,” she said. “This is an honor. It’s something my staff, students and parents deserve. They’ve worked hard for it.”