DARLINGTON, Wis. — A Lafayette County school has received a true educational honor. Darlington Elementary/Middle School (DEMS) is one of only eight Wisconsin schools to celebrate a Blue Ribbon commendation.

What You Need To Know

  • The K-8 program received the rare honor from the U.S. Department of Education

  • Darlington Elementary/Middle School received the honor for its inclusion and support services for students facing language barriers

  • Educators use a team approach to ensure success in the classroom

The national achievement is something Principal Mike Flanagan was thrilled to accept on behalf of all his hard working educators and students.

“Whenever a need arises, people are willing to support each other and to answer the call,” Flanagan said. “It’s just a beautiful place where collaboration just blossoms every single day.”

Thirty-five-year educator Steve Fitzsimons has spent 34 of those years teaching math. He said it was a joy to watch his students solve complex algebra problems, despite coping with a language barrier.

(Spectrum News 1/Kathryn Larson)

“So we have a bunch of these students who hardly speak English, but yet are working hard, trying hard,” Fitzsimons said.

“We have about 40% English language learner population here at [DEMS],” Flanagan said. “So a lot of kids come to us with a limited amount of English proficiency. Obviously, we had to bridge that language barrier and our staff has just done a great job of embracing that.”

The Blue Ribbon accolade showed DEMS students were making the grade with hands -on team approach.

“Mr. Flanagan is in everybody’s room every day,” Fitzsimons said about his on-the-go leader. “The last place you would go to see him is to the principal’s office because he’s not there. He’s going to be out, you know, doing stuff.”

Meanwhile Flanagan said he was grateful the DEMS model focuses on inclusion and having students walk with their heads high.

“So we’ve had to support students not only academically but also socially, emotionally, and to give them sometimes their basic needs. But when kids are nurtured and cared for, they will typically reap the benefits,” Flanagan said.

Those interested can learn more about the other Wisconsin schools that received the prestigious honor here.