2019-2020 School Year

Making Today Count: Fostering Kindness through Student Leadership at Landis Run & the Middle School

 

Student leaders making a difference at Landis Run Intermediate School. Student-created messages to promote positive school climate at Landis Run Intermediate School.

 

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a presentation by Mr. Will Gillis, Principal at Landis Run Intermediate School, as he was sharing meaningful information about the opportunities for students to develop leadership skills within the building. Specifically, Mr. Gillis was talking about the various activities in place for 5th and 6th grade students to become leaders – activities that empower students to create a positive school environment that is less susceptible to bullying, and engage in simple acts of kindness regularly and intentionally. With the support of a community organization, the Landis Run Intermediate School expanded their after-school student leadership program this year to continue specific student-organized and facilitated activities for bringing the school together and eliminating bullying. The student leaders met after school to plan activities that promote a positive school culture, including events where staff members and students are recognized, and student-created banners and signs with positive messages are posted throughout the school – “Smile and Be Kind,” “Be Cool, Not Cruel,” and “We’re Here to Help.” The Leading Hands student leaders made several “Buddy Benches” and placed them throughout the school.

Our Middle School has a student group called the Sunshine Club. They work together to spread kind messages throughout the school, hanging uplifting posters and signs in the hallways. They recently created bracelets with positive messages for others, and developed banners and signs that reinforce the importance of resiliency.

 

Students working together to make special signage throughout the Middle School.

 

Middle School students signed the banner accepting the mission of Rachel’s Challenge.

In past blogs I have shared various ways in which our district students demonstrate acts of kindness, such as participation in Kindness Clubs, the “Kindness Rocks” Project, the “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” Project, and many different school and community service projects.  One of our larger district initiatives this school year is to promote Rachel’s Challenge projects within both Landis Run Intermediate School and the Middle School. The Rachel’s Challenge program was brought to our district last year through the support and assistance of the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 (IU13).  Various members of our Leadership Team attended a Rachel’s Challenge program at the IU13, and heard a presentation by Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Joy Scott who died at age 17 as the first victim of the April 20, 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. His powerful message focused on the need to start a “chain reaction of kindness and compassion,” which aligns with a message found in Rachel’s journal after her death:

I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same … People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

Darrell Scott developed the Rachel’s Challenge program for schools with the mission to “make schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect, and where learning and teaching are awakened to their fullest.” His message during the IU13 presentation resonated with all of us, and we decided to bring Rachel’s Challenge program to Manheim Township School District as a means to encourage and teach kindness, compassion, and empathy among the student body. We believe that these character traits can be modeled and taught to students via the classroom, extracurricular activities, and in the larger community. Promoting and recognizing these important qualities occurs through monthly and/or quarterly Student Recognition Breakfasts at the Middle School and High School.

School signage at the Middle School promoting Rachel’s Challenge and speaking with kindness. Lots of applause for our students during the February Middle School Student Recognition Breakfast.

Rachel’s Challenge also teaches students to recognize that words have the power to hurt and the power to heal.  Each person must choose how we use that power for the positive. Our Middle School Principal, Mrs. Christine Resh, has shared that this year our middle school has expanded the Friends of Rachel (FOR) Club which empowers students to create and foster a school culture marked by kindness and compassion. The FOR Club has been busy spreading kindness throughout the school by hanging signs that spread positive messages about social and emotional learning and the importance of relationships.  They are creating banners to thank students and staff for what they do every day to encourage each other and make the community a better place for everyone.

The staff and students at Landis Run and the Middle School have also opened “Rachel’s Closets” – a special room filled with clothing, personal care items, toiletries, and food for our students and families in need. We are so happy to have our families and the community continue to donate items for the Rachel’s Closets. Our data shows that between 35-40 visits have been made to the Landis Run Rachel’s Closet, and the same number of visits have occurred so far at the Middle School Rachel’s Closet.  The Rachel’s Closets are making a difference in our community.  Students and staff are keeping the closets stocked and organized for these important visits.

Rachel’s Closet at Landis Run Intermediate School. Rachel’s Closet at the Middle School.

 

Students organizing clothing within the Middle School Rachel’s Closet.

Both schools have “High Five Zones” and student videos or music highlighting Rachel’s Challenge (in process). At Landis Run Intermediate, students have organized a “winter gloves and hats” drive and a Thanksgiving drive for families in need. They are also making chain link slips for acts of kindness identified throughout the school (to start a “chain reaction of kindness and compassion”).

The Rachel’s Challenge program is providing our district with a sustainable, research-based, framework for building positive climate and culture in our schools.  They help make safer, more connected schools through intentional meaningful connections between student-to-student and student-to-teacher/staff relationships.

Employee of the Month

Our employee recognition for February goes to Kylie Chew, music teacher at Brecht and Schaeffer Elementary Schools.  Kylie’s colleagues nominated her by submitting this special message:

“The students at Brecht Elementary are incredibly enthusiastic about music class and their teacher Mrs. Kylie Chew. Kylie makes music class fun and exciting for kids. She has her finger on the pulse of what is interesting and popular.  Even though she teaches all the students at Brecht (and all the students at Schaeffer), Kylie makes an effort to get to know her students so that she can connect with them outside of music class. Furthermore, Kylie is full of positive energy and enthusiasm throughout the day.  She consistently has something fun and exciting planned for music class that keeps students engaged and looking forward to the next time they will be in her room. Teachers can feel Kylie’s excitement for teaching and learning rubbing off on their shared students when they pick them up from music class. Her passion is infectious and can even lift up a fellow teacher or administrator. Gracious with her personal time, Kylie also leads a choir of 4th grade students one morning per week in each of her buildings. Choir gives our students a chance to spend time on something they love outside the school day. She truly embraces the commitment to doing whatever it takes for our students. As a colleague, Kylie is often the first to offer to fill in for staff when needed and can also be found helping with PTO meetings and events and assemblies to enrich our school climate. Another colleague said that when she walks past Kylie’s classroom she sees and hears joy — joy from both the students and from Kylie. It is evident that Kylie loves the art of teaching, music, and her students. Kylie goes above and beyond for Manheim Township School District. We are lucky to have her on our team!”

Brecht Elementary teacher, Kylie Chew, was named the February Employee of the Month. Kylie was recognized at the February School Board meeting by Brecht Principal, Ms. Nicole Reinking. Kylie is also the music teacher at Schaeffer Elementary School.