Work hard and be kind. These are the words that Sue Osterhoudt, principal of Riccardi Elementary School in Glasco, wants the students in her building to live by.
The students are definitely working hard. Osterhoudt, who became principal of Riccardi last year after spending two years as the assistant principal of the Junior High School and ten years teaching sixth grade and AIS (Academic Intervention Services), acknowledges that the new state standards the students need to meet are challenging, but she is doing her best to help the children in her school succeed. She has held two very well-attended workshops to introduce parents of Riccardi students to the online resources available to help their children, and will hold more as the year goes on. She also aims to make all the district’s resources, including textbooks and keyboarding lessons, available on each teacher’s website.
The work doesn’t stop in the classrooms or online, though. Students at Riccardi also develop their skills in the after-school enrichment program, where they can learn about everything from hiking to chess. The program is so popular that it has a waiting list. Osterhoudt also began a student government in the building this year, as a way to promote school spirit and give back to the community. She says the students have really “stepped up to the plate.”
The student government is one way that the students are able to adhere to the second part of Osterhoudt’s motto: be kind. The student government works to spread awareness and raise money for a variety of causes. They stayed after school to make 400 pink ribbons and sold them for 25 cents each to raise money for breast cancer research. Most recently, they held a Veteran’s Day breakfast to honor those who have served the country. Osterhoudt says “it felt good to give back.” Future projects for the student government include a school spirit day and a fitness event to raise awareness of and money for heart disease.
It isn’t just the students that give back at Riccardi, though. The teachers also give back. During the holiday season teachers ask students to not give gifts, but instead bring in food that can be donated to people in need. They also donate their time to the after-school programs to help their students, teaching four-week-long courses on a wide variety of topics.
If this all seems idyllic in this era of high stakes testing and curriculum changes, Osterhoudt is okay with that. She stresses that her students are “kids first, and their overall well-being is my main concern.” She encourages parents and her teachers to avoid discussing the controversy surrounding the state mandated testing with the students, because she doesn’t want them to “think that that’s everything.” Instead, she says, it takes a balance between working hard and playing hard for a student to develop their full potential.