Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


2012 Awards Ceremony

More than 700 principals, teachers, and school supporters gathered in Washington, DC November 12 and 13 for the 30th annual U.S. Department of Education recognition ceremony for National Blue Ribbon Schools.

Representing 314 exemplary public and private schools across the country, participants deliberated on “what’s working” in their schools, conferred with U.S. Department of Education officials, enjoyed a sponsored networking reception, and received their awards in the company of their peers. Inspired by the tireless Aba Kumi, program director of the National Blue Ribbon Schools, many danced across the stage before accepting their hard-earned NBRS award plaques and flags.

Aba Kumi, NBRS program director preparing participants for their awards, USDE Photo: Paul Wood

U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed participants at the awards luncheon, praising the school representatives for the “amazing difference” they are making in students’ lives. “You are truly going to lead us where we need to go,” he said.

US Secretary of Education Duncan was introduced by Nina Todd, a 7th grade student at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown, MD. USDE Photo: Paul Wood

Among the featured speakers at the ceremony was Marcus Johnson, the 2011 National Superintendent of the Year, who led his Sanger, CA district from “in need of improvement” status to national recognition for academic achievement. Johnson urged participants to “be the light” for schools still on the path to greatness. Michelle Shearer spoke about “the complexity of teaching and the power of the human factor” from her experience as a widely-traveled 2011 National Teacher of the Year and an AP chemistry teacher at Urbana High School in Frederick, MD. Dee Gardner presented insights into “intuitive leadership in a data-driven world” [PDF] based on her long tenure as teacher, instructional coach and principal at the 2012 National Middle School of the Year, Piedmont Open in Charlotte, NC.

The 2012 recipients of the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding Leadership were also honored.

The 2012 recipients of the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding Leadership, left to right: Kathy Raber and Marianne Stephens, accepting for Tracey McDaniel, KIPP Reach College Preparatory School, Okalahoma City, OK; James Mireles, Garden City High School, Garden City, KS; Dianne Reynolds, Spencer Elementary School, Mobile, AL; Blaine Helwig, J. Walter Graham Elementary School, Austin, TX; Liana Szeto, Alice Fong Yu Alternative School, San Francisco, CA; Angela Carter, Russell D. Jones Elementary School, Rogers, AR, accepting for Pam Camper; Christopher Todd Hall, Pocomoke Elementary School, Pocomoke, MD. Not present: Pam Camper, Russell D. Jones Elementary School, Rogers, AR and Tracey McDaniel, KIPP Reach College Preparatory School, Oklahoma City, OK. USDE Photo: Paul Wood

At an optional networking session, participants drew on their experiences of “what’s working” in their schools to share ideas and connect with other educators. Read more about “What’s Working” ideas generated by 2012 National Blue Ribbon Schools. [PDF]

A series of afternoon roundtable discussions facilitated by Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellows and U.S. Department of Education officials engaged participants in reflecting on topics related to the Department’s national conversation on education, the RESPECT (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching) initiative. Participants chose from four RESPECT topics; their comments are synthesized below:

  • Creating a Professional Career Continuum with Competitive Compensation for Teachers and Principals [PDF]
  • Evaluating and Supporting the Development and Success of Teachers and Principals [PDF]
  • Creating Conditions for Teachers and Principals to Succeed [PDF]
  • Getting Teachers and Principals to the Students Who Need Them Most. [PDF]

See awards photos of 2012 National Blue Ribbon School representatives with Aba Kumi.
See the Networking Session Report.