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2020 Virtual Awards Ceremony

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Ceremony Collage

2020 NBRS Award Ceremony Presentation of Awards

The 2020 Annual National Blue Ribbon Schools Virtual Awards Ceremony was simulcast on November 12th and 13th to well over 1,600 educators, leaders, and school community members to recognize 367 public and private schools receiving the award. Aba Kumi, Director of the NBRS program, presided over the awards ceremony and set the stage for the award presentations. Several state leaders provided congratulatory remarks to introduce each state’s winners. An opening performance of “America the Beautiful” was sung by Arya Anoush Balian, 11th grade student from the National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C. Frank Brogan, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education offered congratulatory remarks.

Watch Part I HERE:

2020 Terrel H. Bell Awards for Outstanding Leadership

Ten principals received the Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership, including one Lifetime Achievement recognition. Congratulatory remarks were provided by Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, who was introduced by Tyler Branch, a 6th grader from Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science Charter School. Additional congratulatory remarks were shared by representatives from the program’s partners, L. Earl Franks, Executive Director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals; Stephanie Simpson, Executive Director, and James Barnes, Board of Trustee Chair, of the Association for Middle Level Education; and, JoAnn Bartoletti, Executive Director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

For the ceremony, each Bell Award winner provided a brief statement about leadership. Click on each Bell Award winner to visit their profile page and scroll down to watch their ceremony remarks.

Shavon Jackson
Crawford Elementary School
Russellville, AR

Carmen Vargas-Guevara
South Street School
Danbury, CT
Carol Leveillee Bell 2020

Carol Leveillee
Frederick Douglass Elementary School
Seaford, DE

Mayra A. Cruz Bell 2020

Mayra A. Cruz
Oyster-Adams Bilingual School
Washington, DC

Michael H. Robinson Bell 2020

Michael H. Robinson
Martha Ellen Stilwell
School of the Arts
Jonesboro, GA

Maryann Hayslip Bell 2020

Maryann Hayslip
Saint Aloysius School
Pewee Valley, KY

John Ross Wright Jr. Bell 2020

John Ross Wright, Jr.
West Side Elementary School
Elizabethton, TN

Corrine Morris Saenz Bell 2020

Corrine Morris Saenz
Reilly Elementary School
Austin, TX

Michelle M. Fox Bell 2020

Michelle M. Fox
Ridgecrest Elementary School
East Puyallup, WA

Christina Small Bell 2020

Special Lifetime
Leadership Awardee
Christina Small
King Liholiho Elementary School
Honolulu, HI

Featured Presentation – “Miracle of Morning”


Amanda Gorman, Youth Poet Laureate, was a featured speaker during the ceremony’s opening general session. She performed her poem, “Miracle of Morning” – a message of hope, joy, and unity in times of turmoil.

During her remarks, Amanda provided reflections on how her personal school experiences shaped and inspired her in her youth. She emphasized that it was meaningful relationships with teachers and staff that gave her the confidence to aim high. She described how a teacher’s encouragement and recognition inspired her to enter her first city-based youth poetry contest, leading her on a path to becoming the Nation’s first Youth Poet Laureate.

She reminded the audience how critical it is for schools to create a sense of belonging and community so students can rise and stated that her goal is to “make sure that every young person has the microphone and the skill set in order to share their voice and share their ideas.”

Read “Miracle of Morning” here.

Featured Presentation – 2020 National Teacher of the Year Keynote Speech

Tabatha Rosproy NTOY

For the ceremony’s keynote speech, Tabatha Rosproy, 2020 National Teacher of the Year, thanked teachers, leaders, and communities for supporting students.

Rosproy talked about school as a safe place for children. She told stories about the important role teachers played in inspiring her to become a teacher. She said, “I can still remember every one of my teachers from [prekindergarten] to college.” She reminded the audience that relationships and connections between students and teachers lead to academic success. She noted, “when children feel safe, this creates calm. When they feel calm, they are ready to connect. When they feel connected, they are ready to cooperate. And this leads to better learning.”

Rosproy provided specific examples of how connection has played a role at her preschool site, which is in a local retirement community and nursing home. She described the social-emotional benefits of this unique intergenerational program for the community residents and the children.

Learn more about Tabatha Rosproy, the 2020 National Teacher of the Year

Featured Presentation – 2020 Secretary of Education Keynote Speech

Betsy DeVos 2020 Ceremony

Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos Recognizes 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools

During the 2020 recognition ceremony, U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, congratulated 367 NBRS award winners. She also recognized them for meeting the unique challenges that COVID-19 imposed on schools by stating that National Blue Ribbon Schools, “show what’s possible when you focus on students and their achievement. Many of you show what’s possible when you’re forced to pivot and navigate uncharted circumstances.”

She emphasized that all National Blue Ribbon schools are stand-outs, but highlighted a couple of winning schools with unique approaches to college and career readiness to illustrate the diversity of schools across the nation. Secretary DeVos noted that “each school’s vision for meeting students’ needs and guiding them toward achievement is inspiring.”

Secretary DeVos offered congratulations to the ten Terrel H. Bell Awardees. She went on to say that success is about the people, “your work, your care, and your love, who make it truly special.”

Featured Presentation – 2020 Assistant Secretary of Education Keynote Speech

Frank Brogan 2020 Ceremony

Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, Frank Brogan, Congratulates 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools

During the 2020 recognition ceremony, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, Frank Brogan, congratulated the 2020 NBRS award winners. In his remarks, he noted that while each winning school is unique, they also share many common goals and values. He stated that National Blue Ribbon Schools, “stress the importance of treating each student as an individual with their own unique talents and aspirations.” Assistant Secretary Brogan emphasized how vital this approach has been as schools needed to adjust to remote instructional approaches to meet the individualized learning needs of students and engage more meaningfully with families.

Assistant Secretary Brogan highlighted an opportunity he had to host virtual showcases with award-winning schools in Pennsylvania and Ohio, where he learned how “students and staff have banded together to achieve impressive outcomes [and] overcome obstacles we could never have anticipated.” He emphasized that these schools maintained a focus on putting students first.

In closing, Assistant Secretary Brogan invited participants to visit the new Office of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Back-to-School Success Stories webpage to read testimonials from parents, school officials, and teachers from schools across the country. He also shared online resources to support schools during COVID-19.

Visit the new OESE website here.
Visit the Comprehensive Center Network here.
Visit the Institute of Education Sciences Regional Education Laboratories here.
Visit the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center here.

Featured Presentation – Strategies for Leveraging Your National Blue Ribbon Award

Annette Jones

Annette Jones, Principal of St. John Regional Catholic School and former principal of a winning school presented “Strategies for Leveraging Your National Blue Ribbon School Award” to help awardee celebrate and leverage their schools win.

Drawing on first-hand experiences, she offered ideas for celebrating the honor – within the school, community, state, national, and global circles of influence – and suggested marketing strategies for winning schools. Annette encouraged school leaders and educators “to continue to be optimistic and courageous risk-takers and to have an awareness of possibilities in order to challenge other leaders and teachers to the next level in their circle of influence.”

She reminded NBRS winners to remember the “why” and “how” of the award to help them design a marketing strategy. She asked:

  • Why did your school receive the award?
  • How is your school different than the rest?
  • Why should families look to you as a choice for education?
  • Why are peer schools looking to you as a leader in academics and innovation?

In closing, Annette encouraged NBRS leaders and teachers to share their expertise.