Bertine Bahige

Rawhide Elementary School
Campbell County School District #1
Gillette, Wyoming

When Bertine Bahige became principal of Rawhide Elementary School five years ago, the school was failing to meet statewide achievement goals and had high student turnover. Since then, Bahige has led Rawhide in its successful transformation into a school that has met expectations for two years in a row through commitment to data-driven instruction and practices. Major positive changes in teaching practices, professional development, and collaborative data analysis have resulted in both improved academic scores and a vibrant school community. Bahige’s commitment to multiculturalism and multilingualism and passion for academic success have resulted in major successes for the school: He helmed the successful development and implementation of a dual Spanish-English language immersion program at Rawhide, 40 percent of whose students are ESL students. Students and families have wholeheartedly embraced the program, which continues to grow and now serves as a model for other state schools seeking to introduce dual language programs. Working closely with stakeholders, Bahige was instrumental in creating the school’s “mercantile,” a free pantry offering food and hygiene products to students and their families, knowing from personal experience that students need their essential needs met to thrive academically. Bahige’s focus on community building has reaped dividends, with Rawhide now one of the fastest-growing schools in the county. A refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bahige strives to inspire future generations about the power of the American education system, something he considers a driving force in his own success. Bahige is a current doctoral candidate at the University of Wyoming and holds a B.A. from University of Wyoming and a M.A. from South Dakota State University.