Belmont Middle and Gilford Elementary win EDie awards

Gilford Elementary School and Belmont Middle School were recognized with School of Excellence awards yesterday.

The awards are presented by New Hampshire Excellence in Education (NH EDies), which recognizes New Hampshire public schools and educators that meet high standards.

In Gilford, students danced to the tune of “Celebrate” after the surprise award was announced at a school assembly.

“It was a really fun dance party. Everyone was on Cloud Nine,” said GES principal Danielle Bolduc, who was the only one in the school who was aware that the award would be presented.

Bryan Belanger, principal of Raymond Elementary School, is a member of the selection committee, said that one of the most impressive things about Gilford is the personalized learning at the school.

Another member of the committee Rebekah Gonzalez of Pleasant Street School in Laconia, which won last year’s Elementary School of the Year award, said that the school’s close relationship with the community was also a factor.

Bolduc said that sees the award as one that honors not just the school, but also the whole community.

“The parents are so involved and we have such a dedicated staff that helps make this school so very special. Every day I get too see kindness from the children towards one another and an enthusiasm for learning that is truly inspiring,” says Bolduc.

“We look at the students individually and develop programs for them based on their own pace. We take kids where they are and make sure they have the tools to move forward,” said Bolduc.

Aaron Pope, principal of Belmont Middle School, said the award is an honor for the school.

Pope, who has been principal there for 11 years, said the administration and faculty has worked to make the curriculum challenging and to make it appropriate for the demands students will face going forward.

 “Teachers have done an outstanding job to make sure kids are prepared when they get to the real world,” he said.

 “We do a lot of personalized learning, where students are able to work at their own pace. Some kids work faster than others. Some need more time. We have intervention programs for kids who need support and help and for faster-paced students, we work to provide for their needs.”

He said the school has “maker spaces,” where kids can create.

“These are spaces where we have great technology to explore learning, take risks and stay engaged. We received a several-thousand-dollar grant to create a space that allows kids to experiment with technology like 3D printers, programming, different types of sewing machines, pieces of art to work on. This is all related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).”

Working with middle-school students is rewarding, Pope said.  

“I don’t see myself in any other age range,” he said. “The kids are great, challenging, curious – and developmentally in a spot where you can make some differences in their lives.

 A big part of his job is supporting teachers.

 “My job is to get teachers what they need to do their jobs,” he said. “They’re the ones working in the trenches.”

Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston was recognized as the High School of Excellence yesterday.

Larry Johnston, representing McDonald’s restaurants, major sponsor of the awards, at the awards ceremonies in Belmont and Gilford, said this marks the 25th year that the awards have been presented and noted that McDonald’s has   contributed more than a half million dollars to the program.

“McDonald’s restaurants of New Hampshire are proud to have participated in the EDies Awards program for the last two decades,” said New Hampshire McDonald’s owner/operator Peter Napoli. “Each year, it’s a true pleasure to recognize educators and schools that go above and beyond to help our students learn and grow in exciting ways.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the name of the presenting group and the Raymond principal.

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