Column: Let’s show Pony Pride

George Hoeppner


When I came to teach and coach in District 834 in 1974, there was much to be proud of. There were outstanding music programs, outstanding athletic programs, visitors coming to the high school to view the innovative curriculum, elementary schools that were loaded with outstanding teachers, and so much more.

Later that year, as 1 began coaching girls basketball, I wanted a rallying cry as we broke our huddle during games. In my earlier days playing and later coaching in Catholic high schools, we frequently would break our huddle with the words “Queen of Victory, pray for us.” It seemed inappropriate — and perhaps illegal — to use that phrase at a public school event. In considering other mantras, I considered, in some form, the use of the word “pride” due to what I believed it stood for. To me, it meant taking satisfaction in a job well done. Upon further reflection, I considered its definition as holding oneself to a high standard. When combined with a derivative of the Ponies nickname, the girls basketball teams started using Pony Pride as our team’s rallying cry.

Since then, many teams and marketing plans have used the idea of Pony Pride to motivate individuals and groups toward both satisfaction in one’s performance and holding oneself to high standards. In looking over the many accomplishments of the past school year, Pony Pride is evident throughout our district. Let me note just a small sample of all the great things that are taking place in our district:

(1) A plan was developed so that Pre-K will be part of all elementary schools starting this year. Our youngest learners will have a support system to help them with their social and academic needs before they begin kindergarten.

(2) Spanish immersion starts this fall with its first class of kindergartners at Lake Elmo. This optional program was created to improve the language skills of both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking youngsters.

(3) During the past year, elementary teachers have been trained in Responsive Classroom, whose goal is to build community in classrooms and help students understand what is expected of them in their classrooms.

(4) Our middle school staff created teaching houses that will allow our middle-level learners to have a home base to better meet their needs, both academic and social.

(5) The Stillwater Area High School concert orchestra traveled to Pittsburgh to participate in the American String Teachers Association’s national orchestra festival. Our orchestra was the first from Minnesota to participate in the festival, and one of 15 orchestras from around the country to be invited.

(6) Our high school boys’ soccer team captured the Minnesota state title after an undefeated (22-0) season. Some of you will recall the many other state titles Pony athletes have achieved.

(7) The Stillwater Area High School debate team finished second in state at the Classic Minnesota Debate tournament. As district residents ask that we work on communication skills and critical thinking, this determined group of debaters is well ahead of the game.

(8) Our AVID program graduated its first group of students. This cohort of 17, many who are the first in their families to attend college were the recipients of a strong support system put in place in the district to help them succeed. All 17 of these students have been accepted into college.

(9) Our district graduated 665 students. These students were offered fantastic academic, artistic and athletic opportunities, thanks to the support of a community who knows the value of a strong, well-rounded educational program.

(10) Finally, there were 8,400 students who attended District 834 schools. Their willingness to try new things, persevere when learning was difficult, and work with the staff who supported them, should make us all proud. Each of these learners is our child and deserves our gratitude for the effort each puts forth every day.

There is so much to be proud of! The school board is thankful each day for the staff who hold themselves to a high standard and take satisfaction in a job well done, and for the community that supports the work of that staff. Pony Pride is as alive and thriving today as it was when I arrived in District 834. Let’s have a great year!

George Hoeppner is the school board chair for Stillwater Area Public Schools.