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See why Omaha elementary school's pupils are 'soaring'

See why Omaha elementary school's pupils are 'soaring'

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Empowering teachers

"Parents are our first heroes," says Vanita Jarmon, principal at Conestoga Magnet School in Omaha, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s Adopt-A-School Partner for more than 15 years. Her leadership approach celebrates their positive contributions to student – and teacher – success. 

Some teachers are first generation. Others, it seems, are born with a genetic predisposition to the profession, what we might call DNA+.

Vanita Jarmon’s mother was a teacher – so were her aunts and uncles. “I’ve been surrounded by education all of my life,” she says. “I knew right away it was going to be a job of hard work. I watched my mom work long hours … The greatest reward, I knew, was that I was going to make a difference.”

More than 30 years after taking her first job as a first-grade teacher at Omaha’s Central Park Elementary, Jarmon is as passionate as ever about impacting young lives. Only today she does it from the principal’s office at Conestoga Magnet School, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s Adopt-A-School partner for more than 15 years.

“We’re really excited about what we’re seeing,” she says.

Now in her second year as principal, Jarmon has made it a priority to empower teachers and “honor” their instructional time by working to eliminate school day distractions – a move that is paying big dividends.

“Our kids are just soaring. Achievement is going up,” she says. “We’re seeing it in their reading fluency. We’re seeing it in their comprehension and in their math computation. And their writing is really coming along.”

Momentum. Energy. A collaborative approach to education. It was all on display at Conestoga’s recent Back to School Night, an event amplified by live jazz performed by a school parent, PowerPoint presentations by teachers, and ice cream all around. A banner, provided by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska and decorated with employees’ inspirations, introduced the school’s theme for the year: "Walking the Heroes’ Trail."

“We gave out decals that said ‘Conestoga parents, the first heroes’ because we really want to lift up our parents and tell them how much we appreciate their contribution to their student’s success and how we need them to walk alongside us,” Jarmon explains.

Another key to success, she says, is having a very intentional plan – and a highly-motivated team.

“Our staff (last year) really took time to make sure we were all on the same page when it came to our mission and vision. If you come into our building, you’ll see it plastered everywhere . . . We tell our kids every morning on our announcements: ‘We are Conestoga. We respect. We learn. We grow. We succeed.’”

The winner of a 2004 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, Jarmon’s fearless commitment to student success has been a theme throughout her evolving career: 20 years at Central Park Elementary, five years at King Elementary (academic data representative), four years at Jefferson Elementary (assistant principal) and now, Conestoga.

“It’s so rewarding to see students being successful, especially if you have someone who’s struggling and you can have them see their potential and that they do have a future that can be incredible.”

Outside of the school building, Jarmon is devoted to shaping and inspiring young lives. She runs the vacation Bible school at her church. She also sings in the choir and serves as a deacon.

“I have a very strong faith,” she says. “My faith keeps me grounded.”

Her tireless passion helps students soar.

“I’m living my dream.”

“Faces of Fearless” is a storytelling series in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s “Live Fearless” campaign celebrating people living their very best lives and inspiring others to do the same.

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