"TrueSuccess is a fabulous program which is used to help students become leaders, to stand up for what they know is right, to have the courage to do the right thing, to persevere through tough times and to have grit in any and all situations," said teacher Mary Francisco.
Each month, students and teachers focus on a new character trait. Students receive a packet each month with different activities and time is set aside during the morning Power time to do a lesson and watch a short video dealing with real-life situations. The videos and activities lead to some meaningful discussions between teachers and students.
More importantly, students are encouraged to take the packets home each month and share the activities with family members. A resource link is also included in weekly parent emails so family members can also watch the videos and continue discussions at home.
"I know in my classroom, the students and I have some very interesting discussions following the videos. They really enjoy them and I usually end up crying. We talk about how we can make a difference in our school and world and ways that we can take what we see in the videos with us and spread the ideas during our days," said teacher Jamie Lewis. "I have listened to students speaking thoughtfully, with compassion, after watching the videos. They often will bring up the videos we have watched in other conversations during the day."
Teacher Amy Forman agrees. "My students have really had some wonderful and meaningful conversations around the content and videos of TrueSuccess. School-wide it has given the staff the opportunity to prompt student behavior using the theme for that month. I love the content and the messages that are relayed to the students. Many of the examples are real-life examples or experiences that people have had. That has really brought the messages of being a good citizen home for our students," said Amy Forman.
The middle school has used the TrueSuccess program for two years. TK Middle School, under the leadership of Principal Kelli Wegner and Assistant Principal Lyndsey Fischer, was recently one of four schools statewide nominated for an "Innovative Implementation of TrueSuccess" award by program officials.
"Your implementation of unique ideas - Creating a student packet, Monthly "Big Idea" behavior skill posting throughout the school and School-wide participation (Courage shoes were amazing!) are just some reasons why you are being recognized and up for winning this award," the program officials wrote in the award notification letter to the school.
To be considered for the Innovative Implementation award TrueSuccess officials looked at schools that have "gone above and beyond to creatively connect with the positive behavior throughout their building/classrooms.
Only four schools throughout the state were nominated for the award and TKMS was the only middle school considered. Although not selected as one of the two winners, Wegner and Fischer said it was an honor to be nominated and a great opportunity to share and learn from other districts using the program.
Wegner said she believes the program works because students and teachers and administrators can make real connections with each other. "Sometimes our teachers will share their own stories and students realize they are real people too, not just teachers," said Wegner.
Students actively engage in projects related to the TrueSuccess theme of the month and celebrate successes and positive behaviors. In one project students decorated old tennis shoes with their own words and depiction of courage. Students also nominate a middle school staff member each week for the Staff Member of the Week honor based on the character traits of TrueSuccess. They have to write a nomination and give reasons why the staff member meets the character trait of the week and should be honored.
Wegner said the program works because students and teachers are able to talk about the character trait all month and go back to the theme. "It's more proactive and not so reactive," said Wegner.
"It's all about building relationships and making connections," said Fischer. "All in all the feedback from everyone has been very positive."
The program also adds another piece to the picture of character education programs throughout the district from elementary to high school.
"We're all trying to continue making those meaningful connections with students and creating positive surroundings for learning," said Wegner. "I'm very happy with the program and what we've been able to do so far. We'll definitely continue the program and continue making it even better."