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Celebrating Students: Schools Recognize Achievement in Many Ways


Each month at Scott Johnson Elementary School in Huntsville, Texas, teachers nominate students who have been cooperative, responsible, and respectful. Most teachers nominate about two students, sometimes more, explained principal Beth Burt. "Those students receive special Burt's Best awards," she said. "We make a special announcement and we invite the students to a small celebration where they receive a certificate, coupons from local businesses, and a Burt's Best button. The button is a different color each month." Students with buttons get special privileges during the month they wear their buttons. For example, they might get to be first in line or class helper, or they get a special recess with the principal.

Being a Burt's Best winner also carries special responsibilities. "If the student gets in any trouble during the month, they lose the privileges that go with their buttons," Burt told Education World. "This program has been a big hit with the kids and their parents. Parents like the award almost as much as their children. Some students wear several months' buttons."

At Cedar Heights Junior High School in Port Orchard, Washington, teachers nominate and a staff committee selects a Class of the Month, Most Improved Students for each grade, and a Student of the Month for each grade. About 60 students are recognized monthly, according to principal Patricia Green.

"All students receives a special certificate to include in their portfolios, and photos of the class, the most improved students, and the Student of the Month are displayed in the trophy case at the school's front entrance," Green explained. "In addition, each month our local Kiwanis Club recognizes a Student of the Month from each of our secondary schools. I prepare a special introduction letter about the student that the club signs. I read aloud that letter as the student is introduced. The student also receives a certificate -- which makes a great addition to his or her portfolio -- and a small check."

How Do You Celebrate
Students in Your School?

What special ways -- events, awards, or celebrations -- do you have in your school to celebrate the accomplishments of students? Those recognitions might be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly...

Please share your thoughts on a special message board. By sharing, your principal colleagues who visit the message board will learn from your experiences -- and you will learn from theirs.

At the Golden Oaks Educational Center, an alternative high school in Kansas City, Missouri, the "High Five" program has been working for the past three years. Students receive paper dollars each time they do something caring, respectful, or responsible, explained assistant principal Chad Sutton. They also receive "dollars" for doing an outstanding job on an assignment or project. Teachers sign each dollar and add a note about what the student did to earn it. Students can earn as many dollars in a month as they want. "When a student collects five dollars, they staple them together and drop them into a High Five bucket in my office," said Sutton. "At the end of each month, we hold a drawing. The student who wins the drawing takes our school resource officer and a staff member of their choice out to lunch at a local restaurant.

"This program has been extremely successful with our students, many of whom benefit from the continuous feedback and incentives. The program also means students make positive visits to the principals and that I get to pat more students on the back."

Principal Phil Shaman told Education World of similar incentives used at Neepawa Area Collegiate Institute in Neepawa, Manitoba (Canada). "Each month, students who have perfect attendance or attitude -- no discipline issues -- are entered into a drawing for $25 awards presented at both our junior and senior high levels," he said. "We were having a huge problem with tardiness so we looked at ways we might improve that situation. The incentives we put in place have really helped us improve attendance and tardiness."

Marist Academy is a private Catholic school in Waterford, Michigan. There, principal Diana Atkins reports that throughout the year teachers nominate and select students who go above and beyond the school's stated mission: "With God we form good Christian people, upright citizens, and academic scholars." Each month, a student receives the school's Magnificent Applause Award, which carries with it a certificate, a pin, and lunch with the principal. "The award is given once a month at our weekly Mass, so the student is recognized by the entire school community," Atkins told Education World. "This is a very special honor for a student who has been carefully selected."

Students of the Month are celebrated at Doctors Inlet Elementary School too. "Each week, teachers choose a Student of the Week," said principal Larry Davis. "Then, each month, I draw the names of five of those students. Those students attend a special lunch with me. They also get a free meal at Chick-fil-A. Another business partner, Food Lion, gives each student a certificate and a bag of goodies such as pencils, erasers, rulers, crayons, paper, and free drink coupons, plus they display the students' pictures on the store's community board for one month."

"We also have grade-level award ceremonies each month," added Davis. "Our cafeteria is too small to accommodate all the students so it is done by grade level."

Principal Jim Clark uses data related to attendance, tardiness, and discipline referrals to arrive mathematically at a Class of the Month at T.R. Simmons Elementary School in Jasper, Alabama. "The class with the lowest or perfect score receives the award," said Clark. "Their class picture appears in the local newspaper and on our school Web site. A congratulatory message also appears on the sign in front of our school building, and a banner will hang outside their classroom for the month. In addition, they are given a party -- for example, a pizza and soft drink party or an ice cream and soft drink party."

"And, most important of all," added Clark, "they earn the curiosity of the principal!"

At Southdown Elementary, the Students of the Month are awarded a lunch with the principal and assistant principal. "We do a very special lunch," said principal Betty Peltier, "with tablecloths, fancy china, crystal, silverware"

Click a link below to read more of this article:
Weekly Celebrations Spotlight Students
Quarterly Celebrations Too!
Honoring Academic Accomplishments All Year Long
More Special Celebrations

Thanks a Million!

To the School Leaders Who Contributed to This Article
  • Laurance E. Anderson, principal, Gunther School, North Bellmore, New York
  • Diana L. Atkins, principal, Marist Academy-Waterford, Waterford, Michigan
  • Beth Burt, principal, Scott Johnson Elementary School, Huntsville, Texas
  • Jim Clark, principal, T.R. Simmons Elementary School , Jasper, Alabama
  • Larry Davis, principal, Doctors Inlet Elementary School, Middleburg, Florida
  • Cathy Finn-Pike, principal, Rennie's River Elementary School, St. John's, Newfoundland (Canada)
  • Dr. Patricia Green, principal, Cedar Heights Junior High School, Port Orchard, Washington
  • Deborah Harbin, principal, Holbrook Elementary School, Houston, Texas
  • Bonita Henderson, assistant principal, Central Fairmount School, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Marguerite McNeely, principal, Alexandria Magnet Middle School for Math and Science, Alexandria, Louisiana
  • Belinda L. Miller, assistant principal, George S. Mickelson Middle School, Brookings, South Dakota
  • Tony Pallija, principal, North Canton Hoover High School, North Canton, Ohio
  • Betty Peltier, principal, Southdown Elementary School, Houma, Louisiana
  • Dr. Les Potter, principal, Silver Sands Middle School, Port Orange, Florida
  • Dr. Deborah P'Pool, principal, Cumberland Road Elementary School, Fishers, Indiana
  • Phil Shaman, principal, Neepawa Area Collegiate Institute, Neepawa, Manitoba (Canada)
  • Teri Stokes, principal, Weatherly Heights Elementary, Huntsville, Alabama
  • Chad Christopher Sutton, assistant principal, Golden Oaks Educational Center (alternative school), Kansas City, Missouri