Education column: Sandia Elementary staff always pushing to improve

Just before spring break, I went by Sandia Elementary to talk with Principal Matt Vetterly. It was an interesting process, because we were delightfully interrupted over and over again by passing students who had to greet the clearly beloved Vetterly. I asked all about Sandia, and Vetterly was so eloquent and described so well what I saw at Sandia that I simply captured his own words below.

Vetterly: “It is a well-known fact that basketball great Larry Bird would run the stairs after every practice, his reasoning being that he did not want to be out-performed. Bird’s extra efforts put him in the basketball hall of fame.

“At Sandia Elementary, we are quietly running the stairs. There is no hall of fame, but the desire to constantly improve, never to settle, and to make the most of each opportunity is at the heart of this great elementary school. For 50 years, Sandia has maintained high academic expectations, great family participation and a teaching staff that works well beyond any bell.

“This year, Sandia has increased their donation to Jump Rope for Heart, Toys for CASA and the Food Bank’s canned food drive. In every case, the students themselves contributed to the causes. Sixth-grade students spent their own money to purchase cans for the drive. This was not to receive any reward, but rather to demonstrate student leadership, which is cultivated over the years through a partnership of parents, students and teachers. An example of this is one of our by students who will represent Sandia and Clovis at the State Science Fair.

“Teacher leadership provides the model for student leadership. School-wide events, like Dr. Seuss Night, School Carnival, book fairs and the creation of an after school program require dedicated teachers that contribute countless hours after school to plan and carry out the programs. One tremendous blessing to Sandia is that in every instance staff members have taken leadership roles, guiding the event to success. Every adult at Sandia is considered a teacher, and each knows that little eyes are watching them, and everyone must do their part for the children.

“Every Child Every Time, is a way of life for Sandia teachers. After careful review of academic data, teachers began before and after school tutoring with the purpose of focusing on specific skills that the individual child needed to be successful with rigorous curriculum. Bonnie Pearce, computer lab manager, has created school-wide achievement trackers, motivating charts that cover an entire wall and identify student performance on their monthly goals. One-hundred percent is a real target for the staff. Every kindergarten student is on track to surpass national standards in math, and every grade level has shown tremendous growth.

“The theme for the book fair was Heroes, and for an entire week the staff dressed the part: Firemen, soldiers, and superheroes, showing teamwork.

“Sandia is a special place because of the special people. See you at the stairs.”

Well said and done, Mr. Vetterly.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at