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Nationally renowned middle school has Briar Cliff roots

Pictured with the National Middle-School-of-the-Year Award are Ft. Riley Middle School administrators and Briar Cliff alum Joe Handlos (second from right), principal.

FORT RILEY, Kan. — Briar Cliff alum Joe Handlos has earned bragging rights. Fort Riley Middle School, where Joe has served as a teacher and a school administrator for the last 36 years, was named 2012-13 National Middle School of the Year by the National Association of Middle School Principals.

While humbly accepting the award, presented at the National Middle School Principals Association Conference in June, Joe credited Ft. Riley school staff, students and parents for the honor.

“This recognition affirms our efforts to implement best practices to meet the learning needs of all students,” Joe said. “However, our school could not have reached this status without the good work of our students and the support of our parents and district staff.” The 1974 Briar Cliff graduate turned educator and awardwinning principal traces his successful career to his days at Briar Cliff.


“At Briar Cliff, I learned the importance of building and sustaining lasting relationships.”

— Joe Handlos, '74, Fort Riley (Kan.) Middle School principal

“At Briar Cliff, I learned the importance of building and sustaining lasting relationships,” Joe explained, noting the low student-tofaculty ratio and his camaraderie with peers in power lifting, with whom he still has contact. “I was mentored by professors, like Sister Edith Gottsacker, Dr. Tom Baechle and Leo and Lila Frommelt. They were leaders in their fields and always approachable, passionate and wanted every student to succeed.”

The relationship-building Joe learned at Briar Cliff was a critical component when Ft. Riley Middle School made the transition from a junior high over 20 years ago. “We are a professional learning community where teams of teachers work together to meet the learning needs of our students, including getting to know each student’s background, interests and goals.”


“As long as we work together to help each student succeed and continue to grow in our knowledge of teaching and learning,” Joe noted, “the teaming component will continue to serve Ft. Riley Middle School well.” In 2011, Ft. Riley Middle School was named a High Performing Middle School by the Kansas Association of Middle School Administrators.

Tags: Alumni, Education

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