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‘Encouraging Words’ teachers boost morale at Columbia

MADISON – A dynamic group of teachers are demonstrating on Fridays at Columbia Elementary School. Demonstrating … not in protest but in generating positive messages to everyone arriving at school.

The “Encouraging Words” Team boosts morale of Columbia students by carrying poster boards with motivational phrases.

Starting the initiative, kindergarten teacher Laura Hester and third-grade teacher Karen Jump saw Emily Paschall’s challenge on Twitter about inspiring schools to take distinctive action on Friday mornings to welcome students to school.

“We thought this was a great idea,” Hester said. “So many students come to school tired, hungry or just aren’t prepared to start the day. We began brainstorming ideas of how to welcome students to school on Friday mornings.”

Hester had known a missionary who held up encouraging signs around his community to encourage others. “We made posters with inspiring messages. Then, we sent an email to the school asking for teachers and staff members who wanted to participate,” Hester said.

Teachers who recently cheered in the Encouraging Words team included Amanda Riddle and Kaitlin Roland with “You Matter” signs; Kim Pratt and Jessica Pinegar, “You Are Loved”; Renee Graham, You Got This”; Shannon Triolo, “Be Happy”; Eliza Lemus, “Be Awesome”; Vic Lakso, “Make it Happen”; and Tonia Porter, “Stay Positive.”

As many as 20 teachers, depending on their schedules, have joined the Encouraging Words team. The average is eight.

Teachers line the road going to the carline, in front of the school and on Balch Road. “This is not our morning duty but something we do in addition to our normal duties. Some teachers who have morning duty in the building or in car line also participate,” Hester said.

“We hold up the signs and wave to the buses and cars as they drive by or enter the school parking lot,” Jump said. “Cars will wave or honk. Students on the bus wave to us in the mornings. We love to see the buses (arrive) in the morning with the students smiling and waving to us.”

Students appreciate the teachers’ enthusiasm and get excited and start waving from buses. “Students say that the signs make them feel welcome, warm on the inside, confident and proud,” Jump said.

Fifth-grade student Tatum said, “The signs make me happy and ready to start the day. They help me to know that I can achieve great things.”

Another fifth-grader, Josiah said, “When I see the signs in the morning, it makes me feel like I can do anything.”

“We hope our (welcomes) will help each child, young person and adult driving by to know that they matter, they are enough, and they are loved. And that they NEVER forget it during their life,” Hester said.

 

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