By Shawn Chitnis

THORNTON, Colo. (CBS4) – Students and staff at Riverdale Elementary School learned on Monday that their principal was named the 2018 Distinguished Principal of the Year, an award highlighting the work done over four years to improve the school’s performance based on state guidelines.

“When I come to school, I’m always excited and happy because school is a wonderful place,” said Blake Rodriguez, 10, a fourth grade student at Riverdale.

Kristin Golden (right) stands before her school as the award is announced in an assembly. (credit: CBS)

The award is given to one elementary school principal each year from the National Association of Elementary School Principals in all 50 states. Kristin Golden was selected for Colorado and will compete among other educators for the national title later this year.

“Whenever I get up in the morning, I always like, Yes! It’s time to go to school,” said Katelyn McAuley, 9, another fourth grade student at the school.

Students, teachers, and other staff at Riverdale gathered in the afternoon for an assembly. A representative from the NAESP
announced to the entire school that Golden had won the award.

(credit: CBS)

“Your principal is the best elementary principal in the State of Colorado,” the representative said.

Leaders from the Adams 12 school district were there to congratulate Golden along with her family. She told the school this award was a win for all of them.

“Ms. Golden has a nice warm smile and I think she’s the best principal,” said Zoey Beztte, 6, a first grade student.

(credit: CBS)

Golden explains that when she came on board at Riverdale she chose three areas to focus on to improve the performance of her students. The school was receiving a “needs improvement” rating based on state guidelines, one of the lowest possible. Now the school is at the highest level.

Teachers started receiving more feedback, data was collected on students each week and lessons were adjusted based on their comprehension, and more effort was put into a strong school culture.

“Not only are students growing and learning but they’re enjoying it while they’re doing it,” said Golden.

One way she introduced a greater sense of community was with a daily chant for both students and staff. It quickly had an impact on the school, encouraging its members to do their best at all times.

“It helps me believe in myself at the beginning of the day, throughout the day, and at the end,” said Rodriguez.

Shawn Chitnis reports for CBS4 News at 10 on weekends and CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week. Email him story ideas at and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.


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