Guest post by Matthew Younghans
Motivation and success are what drive individuals in any profession. In the school setting, it is critically important that we celebrate and recognize the outstanding things that students accomplish, both inside and outside of the building. Watching students grow and accomplish their goals is one of the main reasons most go into education, myself included. The recognition of students fosters strong relationships among students, families, faculty, and the community and creates a positive school culture where students feel valued.
At Clarkstown High School South, a variety of programs and traditions recognize and support student accomplishments. Academically, we celebrate student achievement through multiple events on a yearly basis. Each spring, Clarkstown holds an Academic Awards night, which celebrates student achievement in all content areas, including the arts, music, physical education, world languages, and the elective program offerings. More formally, a night of Academic Excellence is held in the winter, which invites the top-performing students and their families to a dinner and recognition ceremony at an outside venue within the community.
Another recognition program is Southern Lights, which promotes effort and character—categories that often go unnoticed. At the conclusion of each academic quarter, each staff member nominates a maximum of three students with a written explanation. The categories for nomination include academics, the arts, athletics, and citizenship/character. We present the recipients with an award, along with information about the nominee, the category of the accomplishment, and congratulatory remarks. Additionally, recipients’ pictures are displayed prominently in the school lobby for the next academic quarter.
The Principal’s Newsletter, distributed monthly to all school stakeholders, contains a “Congratulations To” section on the cover page and includes articles regarding student accomplishments such as Eagle Scout/Gold Award projects, athletic team and individual accomplishments, college athletic letter of intent signing events, school clubs and organization recognitions, and local contest winners.
At the building level, something as simple as a bulletin board or case in a high volume of traffic area is an easy, efficient way to promote success. In the main lobby of the school, a case with the heading, “Vikings in the News” displays articles about positive news for a member of our student body or staff.
At the district level, our school website does an excellent job of recognizing students’ accomplishments on its website and also links to each school building page. The influx of social media has allowed these success stories to reach larger audiences as they are typically posted to the district’s Facebook and Twitter page.
The entirety of these small tasks and programs are an effort to promote a positive culture within the school building. While preparing students to be good citizens and contributing members of society, promoting and celebrating their success shows students that you care. Be proud of the students and staff that you serve and the amazing things that go on within your school community!
How do you recognize student success in your school and community? What role does/should the community have in recognizing its future leaders? How can recognition strengthen school-community relationships? Tell us in the comments.
Matthew Younghans is the current principal of Little Tor Elementary School in New City, NY, after serving as Assistant Principal at Clarkstown High School South. He is the 2016 SAANYS/NASSP New York Assistant Principal of the Year.