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Lessons Learned
by Jim LaBuda
Assistant Professor of Education
Nevada State College

Great American Award

I recently sat in a 5th grade classroom at Hayes Elementary School, which is on the far west side of Las Vegas. The school had submitted their application for an award and I was there to assess their performance. As I watched the students and teacher, my eyes roved around the room. Instantly, a smile came to my face.

I focused on a series of small paper American flags. Each contained the name of a student and was posted under a sign which read, “Great Americans”.

I knew that to earn this award, each student had to:

Recite, in alphabetical order, the 50 states and capitals, recite the Gettysburg Address, write, spell and correctly punctuate the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the "Star Spangled Banner", recite the Preamble to the United States Constitution and write a “State” research report.

Seeing this display instantly brought back memories of the Great American Awards, which were synonymous with the 5th Grade at Martha P. King Elementary. Clare Tobler started the program in Boulder City approximately 25 years ago. Over the years it was embraced by his colleagues and the community. Schools across Nevada and many other states also adopted the program.

My smile widened as I thought of the nights I practiced with my son and the pride I felt when he became “Mr. Coe’s 2nd Great American”. I recalled my days as the Principal and the sounds of the cheers that echoed through the hallways when a student passed the last requirement.

I remembered all the proud parents who took pictures of their child receiving the award at the assemblies. It was truly a proud moment for each student.

The Great American awards and the other grade level awards at King Elementary were sponsored by Bill Ferrence and the Boulder Dam Credit Union. Bill’s generosity was always appreciated. He was a Great American, who supported education through his actions. His ever present smile was always welcome at the school…and that thought, brought another smile to my face.

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