Trinity Lutheran High School in Seymour has received the Four Star School designation from the Indiana Department of Education for the third time in four years.

It is the only school in Jackson County to receive the recognition for the 2014-15 school year. The department announced the Four Star Schools on Tuesday.

Principal Dan Sievert said the news is great to hear as the school wraps up its final week before graduation Saturday and the beginning of summer break.

To achieve the Four Star designation, a school must be in the top 25 percent of schools in mathematics and language arts, based on students’ ISTEP or End of Course Assessment scores in those subjects. Additionally, a qualifying school must have earned an “A” grade as rated by the state’s accountability system and be accredited by the Indiana Department of Education.

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A total of 287 schools received the award this year. The award is announced a year after the state gathers the data.

Sievert said Trinity’s success is a result of not just teaching academics but also addressing other areas, including students’ social, emotional and spiritual needs.

“The faculty and staff have created many opportunities for students to become involved, to gain leadership skills, to succeed and build self-esteem,” he said. “The atmosphere is very conducive to learning, and certainly our students understand the importance of using the gifts that God has given them.”

Year after year, Trinity graduates go off to college, and Sievert said he feels confident they are prepared to make decisions and be productive and active members of their communities.

“It is very rewarding to see an increasing number of alumni returning to the area following college graduation who share the quality of the preparation they received at Trinity,” he said.

Michelle Bauman, an English, drama and speech teacher and the school’s recruitment director, said teachers play an important role in the students’ lives, in many cases, becoming close friends or even like family.

“Perhaps just as important as what we teach at Trinity is how we teach,” she said. “Each teacher invests countless hours in the lives of his or her students. We get to know each student on an individual basis and work to meet his or her needs.”

That type of individualized attention and education may be difficult for a large public high school to offer, she added.

“The programs Trinity has in place, the mentoring that happens both inside and outside of the classroom and the small class sizes we maintain aid in our endeavor to educate both for excellence and for eternity,” she said.

Resource teacher and Academic Super Bowl coach Ben Stellwagen said the main benefit of having a low teacher-to-student ratio is simply to be able to get to know all of the students on a personal level, identify their needs and help equip them with the resources and tools they need.

Those measures may be tutoring and remediation, providing extracurricular challenges or just giving positive reinforcement, he said.

The school recently implemented a program called STAR to focus on the unique needs of each grade level. STAR stands for Skills, Tutorials and Resources.

As freshmen, students participate in weekly seminars to help them transition to high school, how to be organized, time management and study skills.

Sophomores and juniors receive targeted instruction in mathematics and English before taking college entrance exams. And seniors receive information and hear from guest speakers to help develop their expectations for life beyond high school.

“If nothing else, STAR helps us emphasize the importance of academics and broad preparation as the students develop into future Christian servants and leaders,” he said.

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