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Centennial Elementary Recognized for its Growth During the Pandemic

Centennial 101 days of school

In a recent meeting in November 2021 with the Arizona State Board of Education, six schools were recognized for their innovative efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure student growth. Among those schools included Centennial Elementary who was also applauded for their resilience and response during the pandemic, specifically regarding social and emotional support for students.

Principal at Centennial Elementary Rachel Broadley, along with Special Education Teacher Charisma Masa and 6th Grade Teacher Krystal Smith, answered a few questions regarding this accomplishment and Centennial’s unique approach to learning. 

What were a few unique ways Centennial approached learning last year?

Ms. Broadley: We had great systems in place before the pandemic, so we didn’t implement any new strategies. We focused a lot on making school a fun and safe place for our students and staff, and everyone tried their best to make academic gains. We took the approach that if we (and the students) felt safe at school then I knew learning would occur. Our teachers have a history of implementing great strategies (cooperative grouping, designated intervention/enrichment, interdisciplinary studies, relevant real-world projects, etc.) and doing whatever is necessary to help their students grow. 

Ms. Masa: Learning was created and crafted to be fun and engaging despite mitigation strategies. Creative ways were encouraged to keep people on task and happy.

Ms. Smith: Centennial banded together last year to help support one another. We worked in our teams and across grade levels to ensure that all teachers felt supported and prepared. As a school, our priority was doing what was best for the students and making sure the whole child was cared for.

How did Centennial leadership maintain community involvement while classes were online or when mitigation strategies limited community involvement? 

Ms. Broadley: We relied a lot on social media to keep parents/families involved. During the spring of 2020, we held virtual talent shows, showcased special spreads for our 6th graders who were promoting, and posted fun Tik-Tok inspired videos. Last year, we livestreamed events such as the Fun Run, the ice cream eating contest, and our Jingle Jog. We had parents who showed up to watch their kids for the Fun Run and stood along the fence (outside our gates). We posted a lot of videos and photos online for families to see. Our teachers e-mailed photos and videos as well. Our families were incredibly supportive and involved (within the restrictions we had) and we are so grateful. We also held a community parade instead of our annual Pumpkin Lighting event, and the community turnout was awesome! 

Ms. Masa: Despite classes being online and mitigation strategies in place, the Centennial administration ensured that we were all teaching within the standards and providing ample support to children who were encountering difficulties. We were all able to perform our job well, despite the pandemic, because we also received support and encouragement from our leaders at Centennial. We ensured that there were weekly mental health checks for kids and social skill lessons that allowed the students to release their feelings and learn coping methods that they could do at home. Parents were also encouraged to keep open communication with teachers and school administration. With a loving and nurturing environment, these strategies allowed the children to learn and prosper even during difficult times.

Ms. Smith: The Centennial leadership made sure to adapt to continue our traditions and the things that set us apart, even when we were online. From recording videos to send out to the families or organizing our pumpkin lighting during the school day, Mrs. Broadley and Mr. Verville worked hard to make the year as “normal” as possible.

Why do you think Centennial did not experience a heavy loss of students and staff last year? 

Ms. Broadley: We take care of our people around here. We’re a family (community and staff), and we come together whenever needed. We (staff/community) always have each other’s backs and step in when needed. We’ve done a great job of keeping consistent with staffing, so our community knows what to expect with us (how we operate, how/why we make a decision, etc.). Consistency helps people feel safe, and it builds trust. Assistant Principal Matt Verville and I look at our staff, students, and community through a humanistic lens. We elicit feedback, make changes as needed, don’t stay stagnant, and are not afraid to take risks if it aligns with our values. We also cultivate a culture that promotes having light-hearted fun, working hard, and taking pride in achieving accomplishments. 

Ms. Masa: People at Centennial are treated like family. We laugh, cry, and celebrate our victories together.

Ms. Smith: I feel that we did not experience a heavy loss because we were supported so much by our leadership. Mrs. Broadley and Mr. Verville were very willing to provide the students and staff with anything they needed last year. They were flexible and helped guide the teachers through this unprecedented time with care. Continuing the fun events and routines that Centennial is known for helped maintain a positive staff morale. Our family came together and did what we do best; teach, love, and shape our students. 

The Arizona Republic interviewed Ms. Broadley for Centennial's innovative approach during the pandemic. To view the article, click here.