In timid silence, students at Saint Raphael School in Rockville, Maryland practiced a routine fire drill Sept. 26 led by their teachers single-file into the school courtyard. 

The silence quickly filled with shouts of joy as Principal Teri Dwyer announced to teachers and students that their school had been chosen as a recipient of the 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools award from the U.S. Department of Education. 

“If you are in America and if you are a really, really, really great school, you get something called a Blue Ribbon,” Dwyer told the students. “Guess what? Today we have a Blue Ribbon.” 

As blue confetti was shot into the air and students were given Number One foam fingers, students and teachers danced to songs such as “We are Family,” rejoicing at the great news for the school community. 

Students celebrate their school's recognition as a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School. (ADW Photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann) 

“We are so proud,” Dwyer said. “It started with you. We have the best kids, the best families, the most amazing staff.” She added that the support from the parish also played a big role in the school’s success. 

Father Daniel Gallaugher, a parochial vicar at St. Raphael Parish, said that the school received the award with “great work, great dedication and great faith.”

“I think it's a testimony to the great work of the principal, of the staff, of the teachers and of the students,” Father Gallaugher said. 

Dwyer said that getting the Blue Ribbon distinction was a dream.

“We opened in 2006 with kindergarten and first grade with the dream that we could do it well enough to become a Blue Ribbon School,” Dwyer said in an interview with the Catholic Standard. “This was the first year we applied, and we applied and got one.” 

After the celebration, students were treated to a “blue ribbon lunch” complete with Chick-fil-A.

“We are a family, and we are now a Blue Ribbon school,” Dwyer said. 

The U.S. Department of Education announced Sept. 26 that 362 schools across the United States had been named as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2019, including 50 non-public schools and 312 public schools. 

Along with St. Raphael School, three other Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Washington were also named as 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools -- Blessed Sacrament School in Washington, D.C.; St. Joseph's Regional Catholic School in Beltsville, Maryland; and St. Peter School on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

After St. Raphael School was announced as a National Blue Ribbon School, celebrations there included confetti, dancing, foam fingers and Chick-Fil-A. (ADW Photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)