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VALPARAISO — "We Are The Champions" played over the speakers at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School Monday as students walked proudly into the gymnasium.

Thomas Jefferson Elementary, also known as TJE to its students, staff and faculty, celebrated being named a 2018 National Blue School during an event that celebrated students, parents and school staff.

Principal David Muniz said the students are what really makes TJE great.

"Children feel like they're someone when they come to this school," Muniz said. "And that's how it should be. They're just not a number, they're a someone."

National Blue Ribbon schools are chosen based on "their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups", according to the U.S. Department of Education. Muniz said the teachers and staff really love working at TJE and it is felt by the students, which creates "an inviting culture for the children."

"You have to have a quality staff. You have to have quality teachers," Muniz said. "You have to have teachers and staff that come every day devoted to children." 

Also at the event, fifth-grade students read essays about the topic "What TJE means to me" and fourth-graders presented a poem. All of the children participated in belting out the school's song.

One fifth-grader, Grace, read her essay out loud and said, "this school really feels like home to me."

Muniz talked about the trust the parents place in the teachers and the school to make sure their children "get a great education," while knowing "we're going to take care of them."

"Our kids, when they go anywhere, they are the most polite, respectful children," Muniz said. "They encourage each other. They support each other."

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Alicia Vera, a TJE parent of two, said she was excited about the national honor and even more proud to be the one of three schools in the Region and the only one in Porter County to be honored.

"It's a very special thing," Vera said. "From now on, history will say that you guys made Thomas Jefferson Elementary School from Valparaiso, Indiana, a Blue Ribbon School."

Vera said the award shows the community the hard work she sees all the time as a parent — Muniz agreed.

"I don't think any school could be successful without the community and the parents," Muniz said.

Mayor Jon Costas spoke to the children at the event as a guest speaker. He said the word he thinks of is "persistence."

"You worked hard and stuck at it," Costas said. "We are so proud of you. You made the city better by your accomplishment."

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