The following article reporting on the national honor received by WLU alumnus John Jorden appeared in the Wheeling newspapers on May 12, 2019. Jorden is a 1985 graduate of the College of Education and Human Performance, earning a bachelor of arts in elementary education.
WHEELING — Ritchie Elementary School Principal John Jorden at first looked confused when he opened the door to the school’s gymnasium Monday afternoon and saw the school’s students sitting inside anxiously awaiting his presence.
“Surprise!” they yelled in unison.
Then he saw members of his family and other Ohio County administrators in attendance, and noticed the banner hung at the end of the gym congratulating him on being named West Virginia’s elementary school “principal of the year.”
Mickey Blackwell, executive director of the West Virginia Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals, had come from Charleston to present him with the award.
A number of the students jumped up to give Jorden high-fives and hugs.
“Wow,” he told those present. “You really got me.”
Jorden explained earlier in the afternoon Ohio County Schools Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones had come to the school on the pretense of picking paint colors for the maker space at Ritchie School, which is expected to be ready for use by the start of the next school year.
Just after 2 p.m., Jones texted him asking him to come to the gymnasium to look at flooring samples.
“This is much better than looking at flooring, Mr. Jones,” Jorden said.
The West Virginia Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals selected Jorden as the state’s “National Distinguished Principal” among elementary school principals for the 2018-19 school year, giving him the distinction of elementary school “principal of the year.” Deborah Starr of Kermit, W.Va., was selected middle school principal of the year.
Jorden will be among those honored at an event to be held October 10-11 in Washington, D.C.
Blackwell told the students and staff at Ritchie Elementary Jorden “is a great principal,” but that wasn’t the only reason he won the award.
“He was chosen because of the work he does with you folks, work he does with the staff and the work he does with the community,” Blackwell said.
Jorden was nominated by the staff at the school, and he later was asked to submit an application telling about his job. In the application, he consistently praised the students, staff and community for making Ritchie School successful.
Each year, he helps organize a community block party that coincides with a distribution of free school supplies to students.
While nearly 75 percent of the student population at Ritchie School is considered to be “economically disadvantaged,” the school’s standardized tests scores are among the best in the state.
Jorden told the students the school is considered the fifth best elementary school in West Virginia based on a survey done by the website, Niche. The score is derived from marks achieved on standardized test schools, the diversity and culture at the school, and the effectiveness of teachers.
“The teaching part is what makes me the most proud,” he said. “We have the number one teaching staff in West Virginia, according to Niche.”
The award is for all of the school, Jorden said.
“This isn’t all about me. It’s about everybody in here,” he said. “I accept it, and I am grateful. But this is for us.”
The NAESP’s National Distinguished Principal program was established in 1984 “to recognize elementary and middle level principals who set high standards for instruction, student achievement, character, and climate for the students, families, and staffs in their learning communities,” according to its website.