Since 1982, the Department of Education awards elementary, middle and high schools the National Blue Ribbon for an Exemplary High Performing School. The award is given to public or private schools based on overall academic excellence or the school’s progress in closing student achievement gaps. This year, Santa Fe Christian’s High School is one of only six private high schools nationwide to win this honor. We recently sat down with teacher and librarian Carlie Davis at Santa Fe Christian Schools to discuss the award and how the school gives back.
Tell me about Santa Fe Christian Schools.
We have approximately 1,100 students from kindergarten to 12th grade. Our school has fantastic teachers, challenging curriculum and great athletics. We are also able to provide students a greater world perspective through mission trips. We are located just outside of San Diego proper on the coast.
This is your school’s third time winning the Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon?
Yes. Our elementary won the award in 2011, the middle school in 2015 and now the high school in 2017.
What helped set your school apart for the award?
The award is based on several different factors, including testing standards, course offerings, student leadership and student success in continuing education. Our theme has been educating the 21st century students. We integrate technology. The school has 4Gs to help with student internet access. We have Chromebooks® and Macs® in the classrooms or students bring their own device. We offer a variety of clubs and challenges for the students. There’s an academic team, a math team — our math team has won all sorts of awards — speech and debate, athletics and more. Students also have the opportunity to go on mission trips and take part in incredible field trips that are once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
The teachers are also very collaborative with one another. They meet every Wednesday morning for an hour. This month they’re reading Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era written by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith.
We’re all proud and thankful that our school has gotten the Blue Ribbon Award three times.
Do the students use eBooks or physical textbooks?
We do both. Sometimes eBooks can be tricky if there is a bad connection or it doesn’t open for some reason.
How does Santa Fe Christian Schools help build student leadership?
The three schools really work closely with one another. The high school students will help on the middle school retreat. They will also help in the elementary school as teacher aids. The middle schoolers might go down and be readers for the little guys. It’s a big community.
One way our students build leadership is through mission trips. Students are given the chance to gain real world experience and give back. The high school students can go to countries where we have existing relationships with various missionary families or group connections. Students could go to India, Dominican Republic, Russia, Italy, France, Thailand, Uganda, Rwanda and more. We’ve had as many as 10 different groups at once going on mission trips for a week. The students bring books for the kids, clothing and balls to play soccer. The students teach English while they are there. Our middle school kids go on mission trips in Tucson and downtown San Diego to help with the homeless.
Another way is through our very interactive community. We have parents who own companies that can give students incredible experiences. Most recently, anatomy students were able to go to NuVasive. The was a goal to investigate cadaveric spine anatomy and perform an XLIS discectomy and replace a disc with a NuVasive disc spacer. As you can imagine, this is an invaluable experience for students. There were at least 30 kids who were able to attend. We have other educational trips — even to Sea World.
We also give back. Partnering with Friends and Family Community Connection, our entire school came together recently to make nutritious bags of food to send to countries with a need. Paying for the shipping can be expensive, but the students really own the project and raise money to help offset some of the costs. Everyone gets a chance to pack the bags. This year, we packed and shipped 50,000 meals that will go to Texas and other hurricane disaster areas.