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Ryan Ambrose
Checotah Intermediate Elementary School
Checotah, OK

Ryan Ambrose, Checotah Intermediate Elementary School, Checotah, OklahomaThe Checotah Intermediate School’s motto is “Creating Individual Success.” Principal Ryan Ambrose believes that every child can gain a year’s worth of academic growth in a calendar year (or even more). So, when he first arrived at Checotah Intermediate School (CIS) twelve years ago, he built a place where teachers could input data from various sources. This data file now enables CIS to highlight one row, or student, and drill down to see student growths and declines and possible reasons why.

The yearly building goal is to grow every student a year in a school year. Based on data, the staff identify five academic goals for each student for each semester. The goals focus on increasing students’ individual scores in mathematics and reading with a year’s growth by the end of each school year. Teachers utilize this data to drive instruction for whole groups, small groups, and individuals.

Each of the academic goals are assessed on a monthly basis, and teachers have a brief student/teacher conference to celebrate growth. Teachers and students also formulate a plan to ensure that goals are achieved as well as taking time to update goal sheets with assessment results. Students also have a clear attendance goal outlined on the goal sheets. Each semester each student brings home a goal sheet with individual math and reading goals. This sheet is updated monthly so parents can remain directly involved in the learning process. This process enables Checotah to support the whole student, not just academics.

These goal sheets continually encourage student engagement and provide opportunities to give positive feedback and encouragement to students. The goals are printed on labels for student’s binder and on a front and back full sheet of paper with narrow margins and includes several more data points.

Students are active participants in a Goal Rewards Program which has proven successful in motivating students to grow a minimum of one academic year each school year.

Principal Ambrose is a motivator of students and staff. Staff team building activities have included egg drop competitions, personality assessments, fundraising competitions, and many more all complete with prizes funded by Mr. Ambrose. Principal Ambrose’s expectations and vision for student success are visible in his day-to-day decision making. He always puts students first when making decisions and makes sure to mention the growth of the entire class at the end of the year promotion ceremony as a way to show the entire community the exceeded growth of his students. An effective school leader involves staff in making many decisions that impact the school. Principal Ambrose seeks staff input into duty schedules, goal setting, and curriculum mapping/adoption. He engages families and stakeholders by showing extended support in a variety of ways. He verbally encourages staff whenever possible, and over the last eleven years has offered numerous fun incentives to spread that positivity.

Principal Ambrose loves to celebrate growth and recognize the work of each child. He often partakes personally in reward activities geared to motivate students. For example, he once built a dunk tank in which he sat as a reward for students’ academic achievement. During the annual Turkey Day Olympics he was doused with syrup and covered with feathers by students and staff in an effort to increase student engagement. He is the recipient each year of numerous pies in the face which are sold as part of the Bonus Buck Auction. He is not your typical “sit behind a desk” type of principal!

The school’s motto is a spoken part of the school’s morning opening but more importantly Checotah Intermediate School staff strive to “Create Individual Success” on a daily basis under Principal Ambrose’s visionary leadership. The recognition of Checotah as a National Blue Ribbon School is the result of the focus, efforts, and dedication from everyone in the Checotah School family over twelve years.