Is Beecher Hills Elementary where valedictorians get their start?

Over the past five years, several former Beecher Hills Elementary students have ranked first or second in their high school class and gone on to work for tech giants such as Google.

Friday was an emotional last day of school for Beecher Hills' principal, as it was her last "last day of school." She's off to work for an organization that trains other principals, but Crystal Jones says Beecher Hills Elementary is Atlanta Public Schools' best kept secret.

"If you know about us back here in the woods, on the BeltLine, you’re not surprised that we’re here with this performance," she said.

For years, Beecher has created a reputation as a "birthplace" for valedictorians. Several former students have earned that title, salutatorian, or had the top SAT score at their high school.

This week, Destiny Hudson, a former Beecher "Bee," graduated first in her class from Carver High. She's headed to Michigan in the Fall on a full scholarship.

Samuel Weeks walked these halls. He was Mays High's 2017 valedictorian and now works as one of Google's account strategists.

"There is data that supports our Black children outperform other Black children in the district and state," Jones said. "I’m no scientist, but I believe it has to do with high expectations for all."

Stacey Humphries' students will tell you she's tough.

"If we say it’s easy she gives us something even harder. That happens until we say it’s challenging," Kayden Sheets said.

He, Kendi Platt and Jett Johnson are among this year's top performing fifth graders.

"All previous valedictorians were at least scholars like Jett, had the highest GPA, like Kendi. Just high performing in all subjects," Jones said. "I know their siblings, parents, we consider everyone a part of every child’s village. You have to know them and love them in order to help them learn."

Beecher Hills is a small school. There were about 240 students enrolled this year but principal Jones says it has one of the highest growth percentiles in the district, meaning her students learn and retain more than what is expected of them.

Instead of tossing their papers and running for the exit, the students walked out on the last day of school without a dry eye in sight.