When Bethke Elementary school was founded in 2007 in rural Timnath, it was surrounded by nothing but farmland as far as the eye could see. But the school founders were a visionary group, and they saw the potential in the area for growth. Their vision became a reality: Today the school is a community center.
Principal Ann Alfonso describes their efforts during those early days: “We had to develop our own community because we didn’t have a well-established neighborhood.” She met with parents at coffee shops, and in their own homes to discuss what they most wanted and needed for their children. Alfonso and the rest of the staff agreed they wanted to create a school that would focus not just on academic achievement, but on the whole child.
Bethke Elementary’s mission is to honor all learners. This all-encompassing mission includes a focus on music and the arts, as well as honoring all students emotionally, socially, academically and physically.
“We inspire the next generation of learner to be responsible and respectful citizens, respectful to each other and to the world,” Alfonso explains. “That’s why we’re here.”
Bethke Elementary has grown remarkably from its humble beginnings, and today has more than 500 students enrolled. But the school had stayed true to its vision of being a warm, welcoming place for all who attend. Families continue to report that the school hasn’t lost that special family feel. “The larger our school has gotten, the more we’ve strived to keep that feeling,” says Alfonso.
Students and families at Bethke Elementary enjoy a number of beloved programs, clubs and traditions, including “The Last Walk” at the end of each school year, when all the 5th graders walk down the school’s main hallway into the gym for their graduation ceremony while the rest of the entire school – students and staff alike – cheer them on.
“To me, accomplishment is not awards or statistics – it’s seeing the joy on the faces of children as they’re learning, says Alfonso. “It’s the relationships that staff build with students and their families.”
Alfonso says that founding and being a part of Bethke Elementary school has been the biggest privilege of her career as an educator. “We knew it was a great responsibility and privilege and we never took that lightly,” she says. “We knew it was going to be bigger than us, beyond us, and last well beyond us and our careers.”