January 26, 2011
Whittier Named One of Top Schools in Nation
Funny thing about mountain peaks, it takes a lot of work to get there.
But once you’re there – once you’ve put all you have into climbing up the steep, rocky mountainside – you reach the pinnacle and see the view.
That’s enough to take your breath away.
For Whittier Elementary students, Tuesday was all about taking in the view and celebrating all that has helped them earn the designation as one of America’s best schools.
Whittier is one of only 304 schools nationwide this school year to earn Blue Ribbon designation, an award given by the U.S. Department of Education that recognizes continued growth and academic achievements
among all students regardless of race, background, ability or income level.
In other words, fourth-grader Eemoni Hattery said, “it means our school rocks.”
Massillon Mayor Frank Cicchinelli (left) bestows a proclamation to Whittier
Elementary Principal Matt Plybon at the Whittier Blue Ribbon assembly.
Tuesday afternoon, the Whittier students and staff joined former students, staff members, community members, district officials and dignitaries to celebrate the view from the top of the proverbial mountain during a special assembly in which the students proudly participated. They introduced each of the speakers, shared inspirational poems and joined together in singing their special Blue Ribbon Song: “We are a Blue Ribbon School.”
“I am so honored to be here today as you recognize your Blue Ribbon award,” Sen. Scott Oelslager told the students. “That is so special. Learning is a great thing and you will learn so much as you go through the Massillon City School District and beyond. (What you learn) will shape your life for the future.”
Massillon Mayor Frank Cicchinelli – a former Whittier School student himself – attended Tuesday’s assembly to celebrate with the students and staff and to proclaim Jan. 25, 2010, as “Whittier Elementary School 2010 Blue Ribbon Day” in Massillon. That was something well-deserved Cicchinelli said.
“Do you know how many schools there are in the United States?” Cicchinelli asked the kids. “There are a lot of schools. And to be one of 304 in the nation to be recognized, you should get a round of applause for that.”
Of the hundreds of thousands of schools all across the nation, Whittier was named among the best, Cicchinelli said. That really makes the Blue Ribbon award something to celebrate.
“Congratulations,” Cicchinelli said. “We are quite proud of all the students, staff and support staff. It takes a lot to accomplish this.”
The students, likewise, realize they couldn’t accomplish all of it on their own. They needed the help of world-class teachers, loving parents and a great leader, such as principal Matt Plybon.
“He will dress like a pirate or take a pie in the face, he’ll do whatever it takes to motivate us,” Marissa Toney said of Plybon.
Plybon said Tuesday he is both humbled and honored to serve at a school such as Whittier. He is proud to have worked with students who have such high goals and aspirations, and he encouraged them to continue following their biggest dreams.
He encouraged them to savor the view from the top and use it as the strength to move forward – to reach, now, for the stars.
“No matter where you go,” Plybon said, “the challenge will be to live up to this honor. You have a Blue Ribbon honor and that Blue Ribbon honor will always be in your hearts.”
Plybon Named Administrative Synchrony Financial Difference Maker of the Month
Job title: Elementary principal
How long at district: Entering my 19th year in Massillon and taught fourth grade in Orrville for 10 years prior.
Family: Single, brothers JD (Linda) and Mike (Wendy) Plybon, nieces Hillary, Hannah, and Allison, and nephews Austin and Carter and a cat named Midnight.
What is the most rewarding part of your position? I grew up in education with my father being a high school teacher and football coach while my mother was an elementary librarian. I enjoy the excitement of all the students when they are learning. I witness a lot of growth in all our students from their first day of kindergarten to their last day of third grade. It is great talking to former students and seeing how much they have grown and accomplished.
What is the most challenging? Keeping up with the advances in curriculum and technology. This is always a list of things to do with the challenge of prioritizing those items that need to be accomplished.
If you weren’t doing this, you’d be ... When I was in second grade I drew a picture and I wanted to be a farmer just like my grandfather. Today I enjoy gardening and belong to the Silver Trowel Garden Club, so if I wasn’t in education I would likely be in the farming business.
How do you unwind after a long day at work? I like to get on my riding mower and mow a 2 acre property I own with my brother JD. I like to take in the views of the countryside and the nearby passing trains. I also like swimming. I spent many years as a lifeguard and teaching swim lesson at Orr Pool growing up in Orrville.
The students and coworkers would be surprised to know that you ... When I was attending college, I shook President George H.W. Bush’s hand when he visited Bowling Green State University as vice president in the late 1980s. He landed in a helicopter on campus and I reached over a fence and shook his hand.
What is the one responsibility about your position you didn’t know existed before taking it? There is a lot of behind the scene work in keeping everyone safe. I have attended many trainings and meetings in order to keep our school environment safe for learning.