A visit from the tooth fairyStudents at Northern Lights Elementary School received lessons in reading, writing and proper dental hygiene Thursday in Superior.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Students at Northern Lights Elementary School received lessons in reading, writing and proper dental hygiene Thursday in Superior.
Just Kids Dental, a non-profit program that provides free dental care for elementary and middle school students, visited the school to teach kids the proper way to care for their teeth.
Students listened to an hour-long program, complete with a dance, about how to brush, floss and care for their teeth. Each student also received floss, a toothbrush and toothpaste to take home with them.
“They’re cute, the kindergarteners especially,” said Kristy DeRosia, in her first year with Just Kids Dental. “They always tell you little stories, and after a while of talking with them they relax and let you count their teeth.”
“It’s a really great way to get kids involved,” said Coleton Hardenbrook. “When we get to see them so little — when they’re in kindergarten — it helps so they’re not afraid for the real dentist.”
Hardenbrock, who has been with Just Kids Dental for a year and a half, said the program started small but has expanded to the point where it is serving 20 to 40 kids per day. More than half of the students at Northern Lights have received care from Just Kids Dental in recent years, and Hardenbrock said there has been a noticeable improvement in dental health.
“Over the years, the decline in actual decay in teeth has gone down tremendously,” he said. “When you see a child from kindergarten all the way to seventh grade at Superior Middle School, it’s kind of crazy how great their teeth look.”
Just Kids Dental serves students in Douglas County in Wisconsin and Carlton, St. Louis and Lake counties in Minnesota. Through the program, dental hygienists visit local schools and provide free cleanings, sealants and fluoride treatments to students who are uninsured or underinsured.
For Northern Lights, which has a high number of students receiving free or reduced lunches, the program has been a godsend.
“It’s about math, it’s about reading, it’s about preparing kids to be college ready; but none of that can happen unless we’re taking care of the whole child,” said Robyn Deshayes, principal at Northern Lights Elementary School.
The school’s efforts to care for and teach its students have borne fruit.
Both Northern Lights and Lake Superior elementary schools received honors for student achievement recently. Three representatives from each school traveled to Madison on Oct. 2 to accept awards as Wisconsin Schools of Recognition. The staff members received a plaque and met with State Superintendent Tony Evers as part of the recognition ceremony. Each school also received $1,000 to be used for school-related purposes.
Deshayes represented Northern Lights at the ceremony along with kindergarten teachers Anna Cherney and Kelly Jobin. Representing Lake Superior were third-grade teacher Michele Conlan, retired teacher Lynn Nusbaum and reading specialist Susan Amadio
“It was a very nice ceremony all around,” Deshayes said. “It’s been rough to be an educator in Wisconsin for the past year. The political climate has us all feeling beaten down, and I think taking the time to honor the hard work and success that we are having in this state was a real uplifting experience.”
Northern Lights and Lake Superior were among 132 schools to earn this year’s Wisconsin School of Recognition award. Schools receiving the honor must rank in the top 25 percent for student poverty rates and outperform comparable schools in reading and math.
Lake Superior also received the award for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years; and Northern Lights received it in 2010-11.
At Northern Lights, 71 percent of students receive free or reduced lunches. In the most recent Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination, the school exceeded the state average in reading at the third-grade level. Northern Lights’ fourth-grade students tested as 81 percent proficient or advanced in reading and 78 percent in math.
“The success that we see at Northern Lights is based on the teachers and support staff in this building being dedicated to seeing all students succeed,” Deshayes said. “There are students in our building, a great number, who come with a disadvantage. But the teachers in this building stay at this building and teach at this building because of a dedication to all kids.”
Lake Superior has a 57 percent poverty rate. Students there tested 93 percent proficient or advanced in reading and 91 percent in math. Statewide fourth-grade students averaged 81 percent proficient or advanced in reading and 80 percent in math.
“If you look at the pattern over the last 10 years for the district, you always have those wavers, but there’s been a continual upward trend across the years,” Deshayes said.
Many of the teachers at Northern Lights have been in the classrooms there since the school opened. Deshayes said they remain because they know the children and are committed to their success.
“Poverty can be a disadvantage, but it’s not a statement about what these kids can learn and accomplish in their life,” Deshayes said.
Northern Lights also makes a point to involve parents in their children’s education. Deshayes said the school strives to support parents so they can support their children.
Some of that support comes in the shape of programs like Just Kids Dental.
“If they’ve got a toothache, if they’ve been ill, they’re not going to be ready to learn,” Deshayes said.
More information about Just Kids Dental may be found on the organization’s website, www.justkidsdentalinc.org.