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GHS Senior Alice Zhang Named National Merit Scholar Semifinalist

Alice Zhang, National Merit Scholar Semifinalist.

It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

We are thrilled to announce that Gilbert High School senior Alice Zhang, 17, recently learned the exciting news that she is among the less than 1 percent of high school graduating seniors in the Class of 2024 nationally to make the cut as a national semifinalist for the prestigious scholarship.

Alice received the news in front of the entire senior class early last week during a meeting in the auditorium. High School instructional coach Jen Schnormeier made the announcement, and the entire class applauded Alice’s achievement.

“To have a National Merit Semifinalist is exciting,” Gilbert High School Principal Cindy Bassett said. “Gilbert High School has a lot of pride in Alice, and her peers are genuinely excited for her. She’s a hard worker, she cares greatly for academics, and she loves to learn.”

Alice earned her spot in the semifinals with her performance on the PSAT test — she scored a 1,500 — during her junior year. She will now submit an application and essay in the hopes of advancing to the finals. Students must also take and score well on the SAT or ACT to advance. Alice certainly has that part already covered; she scored a perfect 36 on the ACT.

The finalists will be announced in February.

Alice says she’s still weighing her options on her college choice, but says she wants to study mathematics.

“I think I would enjoy being a statistician, but there are some other areas I could pursue as well,” Alice said.

We would like everyone to join Gilbert Schools in congratulating Alice on this tremendous accomplishment, and we wish her luck as she attempts to become a National Merit Scholar Finalist. We’re all cheering you on, Alice!

Prairieland Homes An Example Of The Power Of We

It started with four simple words scrawled on a piece of notebook paper that sat on Gilbert Superintendent Dr. Christine Trujillo’s desk.

“The Power of We.”

For several weeks over the summer, Dr. Trujillo spent time each day thinking about the message she wanted to convey to the district staff members at the school’s annual Back To School Kickoff Rally in August, and with those four words on a yellow sheet of paper, the message began to take shape.

“The Power of We.”

It’s simple, really. At Gilbert Schools, we believe We is so much more important than Me. It also conveys a philosophy centered on working together to achieve our district-wide goals. We are not four separate buildings with singular goals; we are one connected school district focused on all aspects of our students and their needs.

When we work together, collaboratively, the possibilities are endless.

Dr. Trujillo’s message — you can watch our video focused on the Power of We HERE — resonated with our staff members, and following the Back To School Kickoff Rally it was suggested that T-shirts centered around that message needed to be created.

And that’s where Prairieland Homes entered the picture.

Looking for a way to pay for shirts for all staff members, Dr. Trujillo called Prairieland Homes co-owner Jake Hanson, who immediately and enthusiastically agreed to donate to the cause.

“One of our core values is to support our community and give back to our community,” Hanson said. “The school is a big part of Gilbert and the Gilbert community, and we are blessed with the opportunity to provide homes for a lot of the students and their families. So to be able to give back to the school that helps bring people to Gilbert is a great opportunity for Prairieland Homes.”

Prairieland Homes donated approximately $1,600 for the production of nearly 300 T-shirts adorned with the Power of We logo the district created for Dr. Trujillo’s Back To School Kickoff Rally presentation.

“I’m so grateful to our entire community for always supporting the Gilbert Community School District,” Dr. Trujillo said. “Prairieland is a great example of the support and partnership we receive a daily basis. It’s a perfect example of the Power of We for our students, staff, and community.”

Klaffke Named SHAPE Iowa Elementary PE Teacher of the Year

Constantly moving. Constantly teaching. Constantly smiling. When you step inside the Gilbert Intermediate main gymnasium for a morning PE class, that’s what you will see when you observe teacher Stephanie Klaffke. With her customary headset microphone in place so that all of her students can hear her words of wisdom, Klaffke radiates enthusiasm for her pupils, who are attentive when asked and, yes, incredibly active when asked.

For 17 years, Klaffke has been at the forefront of physical education and wellness for our younger students and she’s created a program that is both educational and entertaining. Intermediate Principal Amy Griffin’s office sits just 26 paces from the gymnasium and she’s able to see daily the impact that Klaffke has on the students.

“She works so hard to make PE so impactful and lifelong for kids,” Griffin said. “The health and wellness component of PE is amazing, and she is committed to providing our students with her best every day that she comes to school.”

Klaffke’s commitment to her students and the enthusiasm she brings to her profession were rewarded this past weekend when it was announced she has been named the 2023-24 SHAPE Iowa Elementary PE Teacher of the Year. The process for naming the 2023-24 SHAPE Iowa winners actually began last fall, and Klaffke was informed she had been nominated by a peer for the award in June. She received the good news on Saturday.

“It’s a huge honor because the elementary class has a lot of great teachers in this state,” Klaffke said. “This is a career goal. I set it about five years ago, just realizing it was something I wanted to work toward.”

Griffin beamed when she heard the news that one of her building’s teachers had been bestowed with such an important honor.

“I’m so incredibly happy for her,” Griffin said. “She deserves this because she works hard. Her passion shines for everybody and she’s always there for kids. She wants them to be successful.”

SHAPE Iowa — the Society of Health and Physical Educators — was first formed in 1921, and its mission is to provide leadership and support for the enhancement of movement, leisure and health related programs central to healthy, active lifestyles and lifelong learning.

Klaffke has served on the SHAPE Iowa board and leadership council for the past two years, and she’s represented both the organization and Gilbert Schools as a speaker in other states. She says the organization has been instrumental in her growth as an educator over her distinguished career.

“It’s foundational,” she said. “Prior to this year, I was the only elementary (PE) teacher in our district for 17 years, and elementary is just a little different than middle school and high school. I’ve been able to connect with some great professionals, not only in Iowa, but in other states.

“When the award was announced, I had people from all over commenting on it and that’s just really cool. The award goes to all of the people that helped me learn along the way and the kids I’ve had and the district for being awesome and supportive.”

Educators are allowed to win the SHAPE Iowa award only once. Klaffke will now be in the running for the district Teacher of the Year award (comprised of nine Midwestern states), with the potential to move on and have a chance at claiming the national award as well.

Klaffke says the support she’s received from the Gilbert school district — students, fellow staff members, administrators, and families — has enabled her to have an impact on kids, something she’s grateful for.

“I really feel like we have this momentum here,” she said. “It’s not only the award, but the recognition for our school is awesome. People really are interested in what we’re doing here.”

Joining Klaffke as 2023-24 SHAPE Iowa Teacher of the Year winners were Chris Christensen (middle school ) of Waukee, Jodi Larson (high school) of Ankeny, Ginger Halverson (adapted PE) of Linn-Mar, Anne Sloan (health education) of North Polk, and Karla Lowe (administrator) of Des Moines Christian.

Gilbert Community School District

Gilbert Community School District

103 Mathews Drive, Gilbert, Iowa 50105  |  (515) 232-3740