Middle school hosts inaugural ball

While people celebrated at inaugural balls in Washington D.C. Tuesday evening, halfway across the country, Superior Middle School held an inaugural ball of its own.

Inauguration ball
Kelsey Crawford, left, and Austin Fritze talk with social studies teacher Kelly Ritter-Spohn who was dressed as Mary Todd Lincoln in honor of inaugural festivities at Superior Middle School Tuesday. For several days, students and teachers focused on the office of the president and culminated their studies with an inaugural ball after school. (Jed Carlson/

While people celebrated at inaugural balls in Washington D.C. Tuesday evening, halfway across the country, Superior Middle School held an inaugural ball of its own.

A few hundred students attended the event Tuesday, held just after students were released from class. It was the culmination of a week of inauguration activities beginning Jan. 14.

Kelly Ritter-Spohn, who teaches eighth-grade history was one of the teachers who proposed the idea of an inaugural ball and the events leading up to it.

"After Kids Vote, it just felt like the natural continuation," said Ritter-Spohn, who dressed as Mary Todd Lincoln for the ball.

Superior Middle School took full advantage of the teaching opportunity presented by the inauguration. Presidential trivia and inaugural facts were compiled by the students and teachers and read each morning during announcements. The trivia competition began as a low-key activity but caught on quickly with teachers, who tried to outdo each other by finding the quirkiest facts.


"I think the teachers had as much fun with the presidential trivia as the kids," Ritter-Spohn said.

Students also worked hard in the days before the inauguration. Eighth-grade social studies students created exhibits featuring former presidents for the display cases in the community event entrance of the school. Students gathered a collection of items with historical significance and arranged them to highlight a theme.

"What we wanted was not just the typical stuff on a tag board; we wanted a museum-type exhibit," Ritter-Spohn said.

Tara Hansen worked with her eighth-grade computer class to design the commemorative tickets to be used for the ball. he official logo of the presidential inaugural ball was included on each version of the ticket, but the designs varied widely.

On the day of the inauguration, students were treated to a red, white and blue cake for lunch, decorated by food service staff members. Breakfast also had a patriotic theme with red, white and blue yogurt parfaits.

During the school day, most students had an opportunity to watch the swearing-in ceremony. Ritter-Spohn watched the inauguration with her students and discussed themes of Barrack Obama's speech as well as historical references.

"It's one of those opportunities to have what students are doing in class become authentic," Ritter-Spohn said.

By Tuesday evening, staff members had worked together to ensure the ball went as planned, despite two school cancellations from cold weather last week that forced changes to the activities schedule.


Seventh-grade students Austin Fritze and Kelcy Crawford were among those in attendance at the ball. Both were dressed in style as Fritze wore a suit and Crawford a fancy dress.

"Look at you," Ritter-Spohn said when she saw Fritze. "You look like Secret Service."

The seventh-graders were excited to dance to some of their favorite songs, but they also shared some thoughts about the inauguration they had seen that day.

"In a few of our classes we watched the inauguration," Fritze said. "I thought it was pretty cool. It's the first inauguration I've seen."

Crawford was excited to see Obama become the first African-American president and said the inauguration taught her to always "chase after your dreams."

Both seventh-graders talked about Obama's speech, with Fritze saying it will be the one thing he remembers most in years to come. Crawford enjoyed the inclusive nature of the president's words.

"Instead of him saying, 'I will do this, I will do that,' he says 'We can do this -- everybody,'" Crawford said.

For Ritter-Spohn, that is the most important lesson her students can take from the inauguration. Despite differing political views, all Americans can come together to appreciate the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next.


"This is what we should be celebrating as Americans," she said. "This is democracy at its finest."

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