MORRIS – Many area schools hand out a certificate at the end of each school year for perfect attendance, but this year Saratoga School had to come up with something better for one of its graduating eighth-grade students, Jacie Punke.
Punke has not missed a day of school.
“I don’t get sick,” she said. “And I never had a day where I didn’t want to go to school.”
She has attended about 1,584 days of school from the first day of kindergarten to the last day of eighth grade, which was Wednesday.
Her mother, Christi Punke, a teacher at Saratoga, said her daughter is a goal-oriented child.
“When she sets a goal, she does everything she can to achieve it,” she said.
What she doesn’t get credit for is preschool: She attended three years of preschool before entering kindergarten at Saratoga, where she also never missed a day.
Saratoga Principal Joe Zweeres said the district decided to honor Punke at her graduation Wednesday night by presenting her with a plaque and a gift certificate as a surprise.
“We didn’t mention it during practice or when we gave her her perfect attendance certificate during school,” Zweeres said. “But it’s in my notes to announce it during her graduation and present her with a plaque.”
Punke, who has been dancing since she was 2 years old, said she has had to make tough decisions in regards to keeping her perfect attendance or leaving early on some Fridays on the weekends her dance competitions are held.
“I would never ask her to choose between school and dance, but she’s had to make that decision when competition starts at 3:30 on Friday,” said Donna Mueller, owner of Donna Mueller’s School of Dance in Morris, where Punke has studied. “When she sets her mind to something and she’s determined, she’ll accomplish it.”
Mueller said it doesn’t surprise her that Punke has perfect attendance for nine years of school.
Punke said she likes to expand her horizons by going to school, and her favorite thing about school is being with her teachers and being able to learn from them.
Her advice to other students who would like to get perfect attendance is try to stay ambitious toward learning.
“Even if you don’t want to go to school, go,” she said. “It pays off in the long run.”