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1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ellis D. Parker Elementary School teachers and staff pose for a group photo as confetti flies overhead during their championship season celebration June 10 at Fort Rucker. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL
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2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Kindergarten teachers and staff pose for a photo with the school's Patriot mascot. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL
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3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Parker Elementary School teachers and staff enjoy their championship season celebration. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL
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4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Teachers and staff assemble in the cafeteria to get their championship T-shirts as the celebration began. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Ellis D. Parker Elementary School celebrated its teachers and staff as the champions of a challenge-filled 2020-21 school year during an event at the school June 10.

That event featured championship T-shirts, championship candy rings, gold medals, music, cheering and group photos with confetti being launched over the more than 100 champion teachers and staff – all designed to give the feel of a football midfield championship celebration, according to Dr. Vicki Gilmer, school principal.

“The theme all year is this is a season – and it has been a season like no other,” Gilmer told the assembled teachers and staff in the school amphitheater. “You are the champions of this season – from quarantining, teaching in person, going remote, coming back in person, going back remote, coming back in person – all of the things we had to accomplish this year, you all did it and did it so very well. Go Patriots!”

The genesis for the idea of holding a championship celebration came about when Connie Ellis, an employee in the front office, brought in her son’s championship rings he earned playing football with the University of Alabama, Gilmer said, adding that she’d been considering how best to recognize her outstanding teachers and staff for persevering.

“I said, ‘That’s it! We’ll celebrate a championship season!’ At the end of a challenging season, like any good team, they celebrate,” she said. “They deserved a big celebration – we had great parents who supported us and great kids who supported us, but the staff was top notch.

“We’ve talked a lot in past years about building a team, blending as a team, and also having perseverance and grit – they modeled that above anything I could’ve imagined this year. I’m so proud and so thankful for them,” Gilmer added.

Fort Rucker Soldiers and organizations also threw in their support during the ceremony as garrison command attended the event, the Directorate of Public Safety flew its giant American flag above the group as they posed for the photo, Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers volunteered and cheered the teachers on, and NCO Academy students fired off the confetti cannons during the group photo.

The teachers and staff certainly earned the designation of champions and the day of recognition, said Command Sgt. Maj Raymond P. Quitugua Jr., garrison command sergeant major.

“We’ve done a lot of great things for the essential workers who’ve been supporting Fort Rucker – firefighters, police officers, security guards, medical personnel. The teachers and staff of our outstanding Parker Elementary School deserve that same type of recognition,” Quitugua said. “Not all heroes wear capes and not all heroes wear this uniform. Some of the best heroes out there are the ones that you see each and every day – that certainly applies to our teachers.

“As a parent, as a member of this community and as a leader of this installation, I am very, very grateful for the teachers, the staff members and the administrators of Parker Elementary School,” he added. “This recognition is something they’ve certainly earned – kids in school, kids out of school, teaching kids virtually, teaching kids in a new building – our teachers were always adaptable and flexible in taking care of our loved ones, so that we could go carry out our missions that are important to the military and our nation.”

Gilmer and her fellow champions hope to continue their winning ways during the school’s summer session and a few months later during the 2021-22 school season, she said.

“We do have our summer program kicking off in a week – some kids will come in and join us for three weeks for a little bit of catching up after a difficult year,” she said, adding that she hopes next school year will bring back a little more normalcy for students, teachers, staff and parents alike.

“Fort Rucker is one community – Above the Best,” Gilmer said. “I thank all of our students, our parents and the garrison for their support – we’ll be back next season!”