JOHNSON CITY — Stanton County USD 452 superintendent Kim Novack felt as though the school had won an Oscar or Golden Globe Award after Stanton County Elementary School received the inaugural Charlotte F. Lockhart Award for Excellence in Literacy Education award through Reading Horizons.

“It’s really quite amazing. It kind of gives you goosebumps,” Novack said Tuesday.

During Monday’s USD 452 Board of Education meeting, the elementary school was given the award by Reading Horizons CEO and President Tyson Smith.

During the meeting, Smith recognized the school’s staff for its excellent instruction, adding that he has visited thousands of schools around the world and the quality of reading and literacy instruction provided at Stanton County Elementary School exceeds the others. He said that is the reason the district was awarded the first national award by his company.

Reading Horizons is a research-based foundational reading program that uses a systematic and multi-sensory approach to teach people of all ages how to read. Reading Horizons uses blended learning by integrating direct instruction and software, as well as decodable books.

It addresses all the elements of the reading pyramid, which includes comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, phonics and phonemic awareness.

The main focus is the phonics and phonemic awareness, according to the Reading Horizons website.

The Reading Horizons’ program was implemented in the Stanton County district five years ago, said Bob Homer, Stanton County Elementary School principal.

The award was named after Lockhart, an educator who published phonics research in the mid-1970s.

According to a press release from Reading Horizons, Lockhart was nicknamed the “Biphonic woman,” and was an educator with a passion for teaching the world to read. She dedicated her time and money to creating the Discover Intensive Phonics for Yourself system and spent many years tutoring individual students, training teachers, and educating parents on her method.

The Charolotte F. Lockhart Award for Excellence in Literacy Education, or the Lockhart Award, was established to honor the legacy of Lockhart and will be granted to institutions or individuals who exemplify the characteristics or core values Lockhart embodied and embraced.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Novack said of Stanton County receiving the award. “How many times is a small district in rural, western Kansas recognized at a national level for literacy excellence? Probably not very often.”

Both Homer and Novack said the teachers and staff of the school have been committed to the program.

Homer added that there is no question that the school’s hard work led to the honor.

“They got that award for a reason, and that’s coming from all of our teachers in the building that have worked very hard at it and put a lot of time in it,” he said.

Two second-grade teachers at the school, Robyn Kendrick and Kyla Cook, became program trainers over the summer. They spent a week training new teachers and provided a refresher to returning teachers.

Kendrick stressed that the award was not just due to the efforts of her and Cook, but because of all the teachers and staff at the school.

Both said they were honored to be selected as the first recipient of the Lockhart Award, knowing that there are more than 10,000 schools worldwide that use Reading Horizons.

Cook said the best part of the program is that it simplifies reading and takes the guesswork out of reading unknown and multisyllabic words.

“As a teacher, I no longer need to get my fingers in their books to help cover up word parts to help them read multisyllabic words. Students can decode them independently,” Cook said.

Students are becoming more confident, independent readers with the program, said Kendrick, who has been a teacher in Stanton County for 26 years.

“Students in the lower grades primarily spend most of their reading with a teacher. As they get older, they spend more and more time reading independently,” Kendrick said.

Novack reiterated that the award is a reflection of the commitment and hard work of the teachers and staff at the school.

“We may may live on the edge of Kansas, but we’re on the cutting edge of education,” Novack said.