A lot was happening on the base last Tuesday, but the Month of the Military Child Appreciation Banquet was one of the most heart-warming events of the month. This event recognized the military children that love and learn at Dakota Elementary. The staff served the entire student body and their families a pasta dinner and then presented each student with a certificate of appreciation signed by both the 5th Bomb Wing Commander, Colonel Daniel Hoadley, and the 91st Missile Wing Commander, Colonel Kenneth McGhee, as well as a few special “Eagle Awards.”
One Eagle Award recipient, Mila Callaway, age 8, explained why Dakota Elementary was special to her. Although this is her first year here, she said, “It’s fun, it helps us learn stuff and to make new friends.” This 3rd grader has been to a lot of different schools but said she especially loves it here, her teacher Ms. Delzer, and the group projects they get to work on during “Eagle Time” at school. Mila explained “Eagle Time” as a portion of most school days when they get to read, listen to reading or do group projects like drawing on a big poster board their favorite scene from a book they are reading.
Mila’s teacher, Ms. Brooke Delzer, was part of the planning team behind the Appreciation Banquet. Ms. Delzer was raised and lived in Minot her whole life. She said military kids amaze her because they are so flexible, easygoing and have lived in so many incredible places. She hopes to make this banquet a yearly event.
Since it was the 3rd grade teachers turn to plan the April school event, Ms. Megan Routledge, who also teaches 3rd grade at Dakota, helped head the event as well. Ms. Routledge grew up around Dakota Elementary because her mom was a school teacher years ago. She grew up on a farm surrounding the base and always had a soft spot in her heart for the school that her mother loved. So when she decided to become a teacher, she knew Dakota was where she wanted to teach. Three years into her teaching career, Ms. Routledge knows she made the right choice. She mentioned that with military kids sometimes teachers don’t even get a full year with their students, so they strive to make the small amount of time they get meaningful. She said, “I try to lead with love. If students feel love from [the school] when they leave then I know my job is well done.”
Ms. Mikki Elliott, the school special education teacher, was drawn to happy tears when asked about why military kids are so special. As a military brat herself and mil spouse, Ms. Elliott knows firsthand the hardships these students go through. She mentioned that the staff at Dakota just wanted to do something extra special for their students, to recognize them and their unique contributions. She said she has been a teacher for 25 years, with eight of those years at Dakota Elementary, but never had a school be quite as great as this. Ms. Elliott said they wanted an event that was “for the kids and about the kids.” And that is exactly what it was.
After dinner was served and the recognition awards were awarded, the Dakota Elementary teachers also presented a few stand-out awards. These Dakota Awards of Excellence or “Eagle Awards” were presented to a few students in each grade who exemplified kindness, character, and friendship.