US Department of Education celebrates Hillside Academy

Invited to Washington D.C., Hillside Academy for Excellence was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Principal Sonya Palmer and 2015-16 Teacher of the Year Tamecia Drain received a commemorative plaque Nov. 8, naming the campus a National Blue Ribbon School.

This prestigious title symbolizes exemplary teaching and learning. Winners are often on education’s cutting edge, pioneering innovative practices from project-based learning to positive behavior systems.

During the award ceremony, nearly 1,000 representatives and supporters of 2016 National Blue Ribbon Schools heard from U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., education researcher Russell Quaglia, diversity advocates Eileen Kugler and Ellen Oh, 2014 National Principal of the Year Sheila Harrity, and 2014 National Teacher of the Year Sean McComb. Participants also shared best practices and learned valuable strategies by attending various breakout sessions. To accept their honor, Palmer and Drain joined others in dancing across the stage.

“The Blue Ribbon Ceremony was an absolutely amazing experience,” commented Palmer. “I was humbled and proud of the opportunity to celebrate Hillside Academy for Excellence and represent Garland ISD.”

The Blue Ribbon Program was founded in 1982, recognizing schools based on overall academic excellence or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. Hillside was one of just 26 campuses in the state nominated for a 2016 award by the Texas Education Agency. The school then completed a rigorous application process. In September, a video message from U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. announced this year’s honorees.

“Hillside is absolutely thrilled to receive this honor for the first time in school history,” Palmer said after finding out. “We are excited that all our hard work, dedication and devotion to students as a Hillside Eagle family is being recognized. We often revise Roger Staubach’s quote to say, ‘There are no traffic jams at the extra mile, except at Hillside.’  Everyone here takes pride in going that extra mile.”

Hillside is the eighth GISD campus to be named a National Blue Ribbon School. The district has received a total of 13 distinctions over the past 34 years.