PHARR, RGV— Graciela Garcia Elementary in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo School District (PSJA) became the first school in the nation to receive the Whole Child Certified School designation from the Educate the Whole Child organization on Monday, Feb. 15.

The Whole Child Initiative maintains that the single-minded pursuit of academic achievement has caused schools to lose sight of the overall purpose of education-to grow children into caring, balanced and capable adults.

Drawing on the best holistic approaches and recognizing that children have multiple intelligences, the initiative identifies five kinds of learning that children should be exposed to, every day, such as: cognitive-intellectual activity; creative-intuitive activity; structured physical movement and unstructured, self-directed play; handwork; and engagement with nature and community.

According to Dr. Christopher Nye, Co-Director of Educate the Whole Child, Garcia Elementary is the first educational institution in the country to receive the prestigious designation after a yearlong process that involved completion of forms and documentation, including an on-site evaluation to demonstrate that the school incorporated whole child principles.

“This is a historic moment,” said Dr. Nye. “This is the first school in the United States that’s being recognized this way.”

 The school was commended for its leadership, teachers, and the entire community of parents, students, and friends of the school for creating a climate so conducive to learning.

For Principal Yolanda Castillo, receiving the designation represents a great achievement for her team and PSJA ISD.

“Attaining this recognition is indeed a great accomplishment,” said Castillo. “We have come together as a community of learners to create opportunities for student success.”

Garcia Elementary is already recognized as an International Baccalaureate School, which is another form of accreditation drawing together schools from around the globe dedicated to bettering our world through education. Additionally, the school’s Dual Language Program makes it a model other schools with English language learners can emulate.

According to Dr. Daniel King, PSJA Superintendent, he is proud of Garcia’s accomplishment as it embodies PSJA’s mission to go beyond the minimum state expectations.

“Garcia Elementary really stands out when it comes to going above and beyond,” said Dr. King. “The main thing everybody looks at and what our schools get measured in is Standardized Testing. Garcia does very well on those, but one of the things that we try to emphasize at PSJA is that those things are important, but it is not what our district is all about. Everything from our Early College movement to get all of our students to be College Complete, our Dual Language program and so forth, is work that starts early in pre-kindergarten and elementary.”