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“Our Spark is our Spirit”: Riverview Elementary School holds ceremony celebrating Blue Ribbon award
Damon Gibbs
Dawson County Schools Superintendent Damon Gibbs addresses students, parents, teachers and administrators during the school’s ceremony on Nov. 2 celebrating its 2021 National Blue Ribbon Award. - photo by Erica Jones

On the morning of Tuesday Nov. 2, Riverview Elementary School students, parents, staff and administration gathered for a ceremony to celebrate being named a 2021 National Blue Ribbon Award by the U.S. Department of Education. 

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes schools based on their overall academic excellence or on their work to close achievement gaps among subgroups of students. According to Riverview Principal Adam Maroney, even being nominated for the award is a huge honor and has to come from the Georgia Department of Education. 

“This isn’t an award that you can just apply for; actually you have to be invited to apply,” Maroney said. “Last January I sat down at my desk and saw an email… from the state letting me know that we were nominated based off of our test scores for the national blue ribbon award.” 

Maroney and a few of his staff members spent months filling out a long application discussing what makes Riverview special and how the school adapted to meet students’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The application was turned in April and in September, they heard back that Riverview had been selected to join the elite ranks of schools who would be given the blue ribbon award for the year. 

“Out of the thousands of schools across the state and the country, Riverview is only one of nine schools in the entire state of Georgia and only one of 325 schools in the entire country to be designated a National Blue Ribbon School,” Maroney said. 

Riverview ES
Riverview Elementary School students sing and dance to celebrate Riverview’s 2021 National Blue Ribbon Award during the school’s ceremony on Nov. 2. - photo by Erica Jones
During the hour-long ceremony, attendees heard from administrators, teachers and students about what makes Riverview so deserving of the honor. According to Maroney, Riverview is special because of the culture at the school. 

“The thing that makes Riverview so special and the reason that our school has performed so well is our culture; it’s our spark,” Maroney said. “Spark is so much more than just our PBIS program; it’s more than just service, pride, attitude, respect and kindness. It’s more than assemblies, games and prizes. It is definitely all of those things, but more importantly it is our culture, it’s the way we do business, it’s the way we interact with each other, look out for each other, teach each other. 

Maroney said this spark and the culture in the school is what truly allows Riverview to achieve such big success. 

“Riverview is a family of learners who are constantly looking for ways to improve, to do better, to achieve more,” Maroney said. “Our spark is our spirit; it’s interwoven in all that we do; it’s the thread that ties us together, that binds us.”

Dawson County Schools Superintendent Damon Gibbs expanded on the idea of the culture at the elementary school being one of the things that makes it the most unique.

“One of the things that you learn as you go in different schools is you can feel the culture when you walk in the front door; it really is unique in every different school,” Gibbs said. “I think the culture is what makes Riverview unique, and that culture does not happen by itself or without leadership. I believe that at Riverview Elementary School what you see is a relentless pursuit for excellence every single day, in every classroom, in every corner of this building.” 

Dawson County Board of Education Chairwoman Elaine Wilson also spoke at the ceremony, thanking everyone at Riverview for making it what it is. She said that, while the past couple of years have been more challenging from an educational standpoint due to the pandemic, the staff and students at Riverview and the other schools in the district should be praised for adapting so well. 

“I as the chairman of the board of education could not be happier to have you as one of our schools in Dawson County, and the rest of the board I know would one hundred percent agree with me,” Wilson said. 

Carson Johnson, the Teacher of the Year for Riverview and for the district, said she brought her daughter to attend Riverview several years ago and that she has found the school to be a welcoming, loving environment for both the students and the teachers.

“We celebrate Riverview as a blue ribbon school but not for its own sake; that would not be purposeful enough,” Johnson said. “We celebrate the countless lives which, in six short years here, will not only be successfully equipped with excellence and academia, but loved so well that they are therefore prepared to go on, love others and shine the beauty of the light that has been sparked in them.” 

Riverview Elementary School students Blakeleigh Griffith and Kinley Jones address students, parents, teachers and administrators during the school’s ceremony on Nov. 2 celebrating its 2021 National Blue Ribbon Award. - photo by Erica Jones

Riverview’s PTO President, Kristi Deutz, said from the perspective of a parent, Riverview is “an amazing school for her children to attend.”

“It is absolutely no surprise that Riverview Elementary has earned this wonderful and prestigious honor,” Deutz said. “The culture has made this school a fantastic place, and it is evident in every person and every minute of every day.” 

Several of Riverview’s students also spoke during the ceremony, telling attendees what they loved the most about their school. Students Blakeleigh Griffith, Kinley Jones, Maggie Martin and Chandler Baker said to attendees how much they love their teachers, classrooms, bus drivers and other school staff and how much they enjoy being students at Riverview. 

“No matter what you look like, no matter where you came from and no matter how you sound they will open these doors and let both of your feet come into our awesome school,” Griffith, who is in fourth grade at Riverview, said. “Do you love Riverview? Because I do.”

Baker, who is in fifth grade at Riverview, said he has enjoyed each of his years he has spent at the school. 

“Unfortunately, I have to leave Riverview next year to go to middle school,” Baker said. “Hopefully, my younger brother and sister will get to enjoy the amazing parts of this school too.” 

The entire Riverview student body began and ended the blue ribbon ceremony with singing and dancing, celebrating their school’s accomplishments. 

“One of my mentors once taught me that you win and lose as a team,” Maroney said. “Well today is definitely a win for Riverview Elementary.”