"Is she going to arrive in a limo?" asked Spring Garden Elementary fifth-grader Artie Garcia.
Artie and fellow fifth-grader Ashley Phipps were waiting to play tour guides to a very important person in Maryland education.
State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick made a rare visit to Carroll County yesterday to tour Hampstead's Spring Garden, one of 10 elementary schools honored in the fall with Maryland's Blue Ribbon award for all-around excellence.
"I feel like I'm at a convention," Artie said, staring at the pack of strangers waiting to greet Grasmick.
When the guest of honor arrived - in a black sedan, not a limo - Artie and Ashley gave her a classroom-by-classroom tour.
Grasmick examined student writing samples stapled to the walls.
"I love all the writing," she said, tossing her arm over Principal Gloria Julius' shoulder. "It's wonderful."
"It's amazing, but these first-graders write as well as some adults," Julius replied with a proud grin.
The Blue Ribbon award, announced in November, includes $1,000 and a special flag. Spring Garden will find out soon if it has won a national Blue Ribbon award. Less than 10 percent of the nation's public schools achieve the designation.
"It's great, because it not only gives us a chance to celebrate, it gives us an incentive to keep moving forward with what we've been doing," Julius said of the Blue Ribbon program.
Honored schools join a network devoted to giving the state examples of effective educational techniques.
Winning schools must demonstrate elite test performance, challenging curriculum, active teaching and learning, and community involvement. The 2001 competition, limited to elementary schools, drew 33 applicants statewide.
When Grasmick spoke to the school during an assembly, she drew a high-pitched cheer when she said Spring Garden might win the national award.
"I don't get out here much, but I really wanted to do this, because we need to observe what our best schools are doing," she said before her speech.