CS PHOTOS BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN J.R. West, the principal of St. Peter’s School in Waldorf, and Bill Ryan, the superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, ride into the school cafeteria on scooters on Sept. 28 to announce that St. Peter’s had been named a National Blue Ribbon School.
CS PHOTOS BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN J.R. West, the principal of St. Peter’s School in Waldorf, and Bill Ryan, the superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, ride into the school cafeteria on scooters on Sept. 28 to announce that St. Peter’s had been named a National Blue Ribbon School.

Students, parents, teachers, administrators, priests and even Pinch, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs’ mascot, celebrated as J.R. West, the principal of St. Peter’s School in Waldorf, and Bill Ryan, the superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, rode into the school cafeteria on scooters on Sept. 28 to announce that St. Peter’s had just been named a National Blue Ribbon School.

St. Peter’s is one of three schools in the Archdiocese of Washington and one of just 50 private schools across the country to receive the honor from the U.S. Department of Education this year. The other archdiocesan schools to receive the award this year are St. John’s School in Hollywood and Little Flower School in Bethesda.

West said he thought the award was a big deal not just for the school, but also for Charles County, since it is the first private school in the county ever to be named as a Blue Ribbon School. The honor, which is given annually, recognizes schools that have high academic achievement and excellence.

“In the world of education, this is like winning the Super Bowl or the World Series,” said West, telling the students that they are the players, their teachers are their coaches, and their parents are their biggest fans.

Among the important achievements that the school has made in the past few years in pursuit of this goal is a new one-to-one Chromebook program, where each student has access to a laptop. They have also started opening the school library in the summer to allow the students to get books to learn with, and added a new STEM program that a retired engineer comes in to teach.

Ryan congratulated the school and read a letter from Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl expressing his satisfaction at seeing the hard work of students and teachers pay off in this honor. Then, Father Keith Woods, the pastor of St. Peter’s, unveiled a new sign that said “National Blue Ribbon School.”

Father Woods thanked West for his “leadership and vision” that kept them focused on this goal, and noted that it took the work of everybody in the school to achieve it.

“Even though this is a wonderful recognition from the government…all our success is possible because of God who loves us,” said Father Woods, noting that it is the Holy Spirit that guided their academics, sports, and activities to make their school so special.

West added that one of the things that is particularly special about the school is the diversity. “We love our diversity,” he said. “We embrace it.”

West also noted how in addition to the new science and technology programs, the school has three bands to accommodate students of different skill levels who wish to participate in a more artistic activity.

“We really specialize on the whole child, and of course, it is all centered around Christ,” said West.

Duane Petrow, the band director who has been at the school for 39 years, echoed the sentiment about the school’s diversity, saying it is a nice representation of the area it is located in, and noting that it is believed to be the only longstanding Southern Maryland school that was never segregated.

The students witness firsthand how the school embraces diversity of learning, as several of them noted that their favorite thing about the school is that their teachers ask them each what their learning style is, and then teach based on that.

“They ask you how your learning style is so you can learn as best you can,” said Charlie Sullivan, a seventh grade student at the school.

“I like how it is hands on and visual,” said Ella Leginze, another seventh grade student, as they took a break from their celebratory end of the day recess and blue cupcake eating.

“Everybody here feels like family to me,” said Erica McIvor, a parent who has three girls at the school in sixth, fourth, and first grades. “Our school is led with a lot of heart, love and kindness.”