In this day and age, we are continually pushed to desire all things “newer, more efficient and faster” because certainly these qualities are the embodiment of “better.” With each new cluster of houses introduced to our community, we are treated to subdivision membership perks, landscaping and walkable man-made lakes more ornate, more efficient, than the last and all designed to entice us into succumbing to their newer-therefore-better allure. Of course, with our community’s growth there have been several new schools added to entice us further – who wouldn’t think its pretty cool for their child to sit in brand new desks? Who wouldn’t enjoy watching their children play on unscratched, splinter-free playground equipment? While these new schools do have appealing qualities, I am so thankful for the treasure I’ve found in Washington Elementary School.
I am the parent of five, widely spaced children. My oldest is nearly 21; my youngest just barely made the cut-off for third grade. We’ve lived in Normal. We’ve lived on the east side of Bloomington. We even found our way to one of the newly created subdivisions and it was nice. In a newer-therefore-better sort of way. With each move, my children had the opportunity to attend several, wonderful schools in Bloomington-Normal. We even home schooled for a few years. But a divorce removed our home schooling option; once again, I found myself searching for a place my family could call home. And then we found it. The near east side of Bloomington.
As my children and I acclimated ourselves to our new digs, I had to suck it up and get used to the fact that my children were going to go back into the public school system, specifically Washington Elementary. As apprehensive as I was, I cannot stress enough what a wonderful experience we’ve had.
Bloomington-Normal, is, arguably, one of the best communities in the entire state of Illinois for academic excellence. Illinois State University is nationally recognized as an outstanding university for those who wish to earn a degree in education and many of those educators choose to stay within the local community upon graduation. Normal Unit 5 and Bloomington District 87 consistently outperform the rest of the state’s school districts during the Illinois Standard Achievement testing period and year after year, Washington School scores higher than the other schools in Bloomington-Normal.
The educators at Washington Elementary are the cream of the crop. Their teaching strategies are unique, exciting, and designed to help the students develop a sense of self confidence as they grow socially and excel academically. I was completely bowled over the day my casual “Hey sweetie! How are ya?” greeting to my nine year old was met with, “I’m well, mommy! Did you know you’re supposed to say ‘well’ instead of ‘good’ when people ask you that?” Each week, the school’s W.O.W. (word of the week) is posted on the marquee for all to see and the kids receive kudos when they’re caught using it. This week’s word is “curmudgeon.” I have no idea what it means but, if anyone really wants to know, I’m sure my third grader will be happy to oblige!
Established in 1896, Washington School has the distinct honor of being the oldest school in the twin cities still in operation. The school is conveniently located in Bloomington’s historic district on a beautiful, tree-lined street just a few short blocks from Davis mansion, home to Abraham Lincoln’s campaign manager, US Supreme Court Judge, David Davis. But don’t let its antiquity fool you! The school boasts many modern conveniences, including air conditioned classrooms and a video surveillance system. This year, the school is building a brand, new playground of its own – parents and passers by are invited to check out the playground’s progress by visiting the web address posted on a gigantic banner displayed along the current playground’s fence.
The best thing about Washington Elementary School, without a doubt, is the people. Each year, the school kicks off the year with a free meet-and-greet school cookout. This is everyone’s chance to meet new teachers and reconnect with friends they haven’t seen all summer long. The teachers serve the students and, when everyone’s had their fill, it’s time for a little cha-cha slide on the playground as the DJ plays the tunes. Requests are always welcome!
In October, everyone looks forward to seeing Mr. Parrish and his creatively whacky costumes – our favorite is probably the year he wore a butler’s outfit with a feather duster and bunny ears (he was a dust bunny!) During the winter months everyone can count on a great turn out for Family Math Night; the gym and halls are filled with families having a great time learning new math strategies together. Of course, the same can be said of Washington’s equally successful Family Reading Night. After the holidays, the fourth graders who are in Mrs. Mathy’s class are welcome to meet at her house every week for a dinner and knitting lessons. The genuine compassion the administrators and educators have for every child is evident from the minute one walks through the doors.
Bloomington-Normal is a wonderful community and there are several terrific schools to choose from but, if you’re looking for a school that’s got it all – historic pride, contemporary perks, and outstanding educators – Washington Elementary School is the runaway winner!