Sierra Expeditionary Learning School wins national honors |

Sierra Expeditionary Learning School wins national honors

Kelsie Longerbeam

The Sierra Expeditionary Learning School received two prestigious national awards this year.

Sierra Expeditionary Learning School (SELS) was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a 2017 Blue Ribbon School for Exemplary performance, and also received Mentor Status within the EL Education network of schools for demonstrating readiness and willingness to share their expertise with other schools in its network.

“The Blue Ribbon award is a big deal — very few schools are given this honor by the U.S. Department of Education,” said Jenn Skaff, vice principal of the Sierra Expeditionary Learning School.

The Blue Ribbon School award is designated to the state’s top performing schools, as measured by the state assessments or national tests.

The award was given to SELS for its overall academic excellence. SELS is one of 25 schools nominated in California, and one of 342 schools in the country (there are more than 130,000 schools in the United States). This coveted award affirms the hard work of educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools, where students feel confident with challenging and engaging content.

The Mentor Status designation within the EL Education network of schools is awarded to exemplary EL Education Schools that have reached the organization’s high standards for quality and implementation.

During the two-year term, each Mentor School is partnered with one new EL Education school, regularly connecting in person and through other means to share best practices and provide advice on effective implementation of the EL Education model.

Through site visits, leadership coaching, teacher collaboration and the ongoing sharing of resources, the schools in this initiative benefit from sustained interaction and a mutual commitment to EL Education’s vision for student achievement.

“Being a relatively new EL Education program, we are excited to share our processes and learning curves with newer programs,” said David Manahan, Director of Sierra Expeditionary Learning School. “The help we received was invaluable and provided us with many effective ideas related to strategy and structure. We look forward to sharing what has worked for our school, and supporting others as they develop their own EL Education traditions.”

The U.S. Department of Education will formally recognize all 342 Blue Ribbon Schools in Washington D.C., on Nov. 6-7. School director, David Manahan and vice principal, Jenn Skaff will be attending the ceremony.

The EL Curriculum is used in more than 600 districts across 44 states. There are over 150 schools in the network, 28 “credentialed” status schools (SELS is credentialed), and 14 mentor schools.

SELS is a kindergarten through eighth-grade public charter within the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. Curriculum is implemented through project-based expeditions and fieldwork that challenge students to think critically while also fostering their natural curiosity and love of learning.

Kelsie Longerbeam is the news, business and environment reporter for the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. She can be contacted at or 530-550-2653. Follow her on Facebook, and Twitter and Instagram @kelsielongerbm

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