Achievements shining bright at Piñon Elementary

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By Bernadette Lauritzen

There are many wonderful things at Piñon Elementary and Principal Jill Gonzales couldn’t be more proud to highlight a few of them.
The Panthers started the 2012-2013 school year by earning an “A” grade from the state and receiving their AdvancEd national school accreditation.
“To me, both of these achievements reflect the high level of commitment demonstrated by students and staff in their pursuit of academic excellence in teaching and learning,” Gonzales said.
They participated in the Laser i3 hands-on/inquiry-based science research project, conducted in partnership with the Smithsonian Institute.
Her students will tell you that having a dedicated lab to collaborate with classmates and conduct real experiments and observations made science one of their favorite subjects.
Gonzales believes that Piñon’s continued efforts to reach and teach children in a positive and supportive manner by implementing PBS (Positive Behavior Support) has been a benefit to the school community.
The work included presenting weekly High Four Awards, given by staff to students for demonstrating Safe-Responsible-Respectful behavior, and equipping students with strategies to advocate for themselves in dealing with bullying behaviors, such as the “Stop-Walk-Talk” method.
“One of the biggest goals we accomplished this year was to get more technology into the hands of students,” Gonzales said. “This year, we are happy to have reached the goal of having a 1:1 laptop to student ratio in grades second through sixth.
Having access to technology opens the doors and windows of learning beyond the confines of our own “brick and mortar” and is critical in providing opportunities for academic enrichment and remediation.”
The Panthers have many things to look forward to this new school year and Gonzales is excited to share the details.
“As always, we will continue our rich tradition of Field Day (Homecoming), Spirit Days, Student Symposium, Monthly Character Building Themes, High Four Awards, Ropes Course/Change of Heart (sixth grade), parades, orchestra/choir performances, Creede Theater, spelling bee, geography bee, speech and debate contests, math and science night, book fairs, Pumpkin Patch, PTO Fun Run, variety show, Recycled Art and Fashion Show, Arbor Day, Literacy Week, field trips and more.” she said.
Piñon also plans to add a host of new programs that will increase parent and community involvement such as “Readers Raise the Roof” Family Literacy Night (for grades K-3 and their families), weekly workshops for fourth-sixth graders after school for the science fair and foreign language classes.
Gonzales is looking for volunteers to work with those interested in foreign language, or with those participating in the science fair. All are welcome to contact her at any time.
The principal began her teaching profession in 1995 in roles that included teaching U.S. History, AVID, serving as the activities director and in the role of counselor.
This will be her fourth year with the district, serving as the Piñon principal with lots of exciting plans ahead.
The school will be 50 years old during the upcoming school year, and according to Gonzales, planning is underway to celebrate the milestone. Piñon Elementary alumni are extended a personal invitation to join in the fun and help plan a 50th birthday celebration.
Gonzales enjoys the parent support, the community involvement, the camaraderie of colleagues and the desire to continually improve. All these aspects combine to create a rich environment for academics and activities.
“I absolutely love walking into a class and seeing children engaged in learning, proud of their accomplishments and wanting to share — whether it is their artwork, or a science diorama” Gonzales said.
When this principal describes the work of her staff, she puts into words the feelings of many that value education and the educators that build the future of our community, the nation and the world.
“The faculty and staff at Piñon entered this profession not for the fame, glory and riches, but because they love children and they have a passion for teaching. We are privileged to have the best job in the world — even if it is also the toughest one,” Gonzales said. “Working together, we are like a family — encouraging, celebrating, energizing, supporting and collaborating with each other. Everyone here goes above and beyond every single day to make a difference in the life of a child. I am proud to be part of that!”