Award Year: 2019

Van Buren Elementary School

225 S Shaw Street
Plainfield, IN, 46168-1598

(317) 839-2575

Mr. Ray D Helmuth, Principal at time of Nomination

Title I School

Plainfield Community School Corporation

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Bell Award Winner


Van Buren Elementary School's mission statement is, "Bringing Joy to Learning."

Student Demographics
  • Black/African American: 2%
  • White: 89%
  • Hispanic: 4%
  • Asian: 2%
  • Two or more races: 3%
Students LOVE the integrated STEM activities at Van Buren Elementary.

Students LOVE the integrated STEM activities at Van Buren Elementary.

Van Buren Elementary School is located in the original center of the town of Plainfield. The school boundaries have changed to accommodate the sprawling subdivisions of Indianapolis and several motels that serve as short-term housing for low-income families. In 2013, Van Buren adopted a new philosophy: create a school where all students can succeed, instruction is highly engaging, and learning is joyful. Four key changes were made. First, the traditional honor roll recognition was replaced with the TEAM award that acknowledges students for: Trying challenging work. Never giving up. Caring for others. And making the school a better place. Second, a new character education program based on Carol McCloud's book, "Have You Filled A Bucket Today?" was implemented. By encouraging students and staff to build up one another through kind actions and words, they learn that these behaviors also build their own self-esteem. Third, all staff committed to bringing joy to learning through creative instruction and engaging curriculum. Finally, teachers began prioritizing academic growth for all students over performance benchmarks. Within a year, student assessment scores began improving, resulting in an uninterrupted streak of "A" and 4-Star rankings by the Department of Education. While we are pleased to have earned these high marks, it is the students' tremendous academic, emotional, and intellectual growth that makes us proud. Van Buren continues building on it's success by cultivating a caring school climate and employing an outstanding staff who focus each day on bringing joy to learning.