Start with the Specialists
If you’re looking to increase community engagement and build social opportunities, specialists are a great place to start. In an elementary setting, they are great candidates to highlight, because they are content experts licensed in their fields and operating in their strengths daily. They know every child by name and are invested in every child's success.
Our Martial Arts teacher is a black belt and thoroughly loves sharing with the kids and the community. After holding several evening events for kids at our school, she had a vision to hold a Martial Arts tournament for our community. She brought three schools from around the Las Vegas Valley together and opened it to other Martial Arts students. Hundreds of students and their families converged at one of our local gymnasiums for a day of Martial Arts forms and competitions. She ordered t-shirts and medals for the kids. It brought together hundreds of families to support their children and their schools, and it was a fantastic event. She had the talent and the vision, and she made it happen. She was able to operate in her strengths and bring some of her passion to our community.
Opportunities for Students
Our music teacher organizes concerts at the holidays and works with after school programs to bring performing arts to our kids. She raises funds on her own or uses grant funds to purchase unique instruments and classroom supplies. She leads the students through various percussion activities and coordinates performances for them. She even had a group of students perform at the House of Blues one holiday season. She brings the community together through her enthusiasm, passion for music, and willingness to coordinate after-school and weekend events for the children and their families. The community support and love for the school that is generated through these productions is immeasurable.
Our P.E. teacher organizes and coaches after school sports and serves as our athletic director. He also organizes a project to raise funds for the American Heart Association and helps students see they can help take care of other people in need. His joy, giving heart, and passion for helping others shines for the whole community. He loves to dance and plays music all day as he works outside with the students. He dances in our carloop as he directs traffic when parents pick up and drop off their children. Sometimes students come out of their classrooms in the morning and dance with him from the sidewalk. The kids are happy. Parents are happy. He is happy. He operates in his strengths all day.
Model for Lifelong Learning
The Spanish teacher at my school brings a love of many languages to the school, and he is highly visible all over school. He is the first to jump in and help whenever and wherever needed. He greets kids in Spanish all over the campus and brightens days as he goes. He also has a passion for learning and for higher education and brings his studious approach to tutoring, intervention blocks for struggling students, and his lessons. He supports with after school clubs and helps translate in meetings when we need it. Our families and teachers know he is there to support and help them with many things beyond the classroom.
Opportunities to Create Lasting Beauty
The art teacher is leaving her mark on the campus. She has created several mural projects that involve the community and help bring people together to make the school beautiful. She hosts an art show with student work framed and displayed for parents to purchase. She had a vision for a 3-dimensional mural and all the families in attendance at the art show were able to contribute to it. These murals are now on display in our hallways. She also drew a beautiful mural on the wall and led families, students, and teachers through painting it. She created photo collages of the community contributing to the mural in various phases. These collages hang in the hallway as reminders that we all helped make this happen. Her latest masterpiece is a mosaic tile project that took several months to complete during hybrid learning. These beautiful pieces adorn our hallways and lobby, and many people are connected to their beauty because they helped create them.
Pay attention to the passions and strengths of your staff. Through conversations and observing at various functions over the years, we have recognized the strengths of staff, parents, and volunteers. We have hosted carnivals, block parties, art shows, martial arts demonstrations, concerts, pop-up parties for students meeting academic goals, events at local parks, and holiday events for families and students. We have grown our campus from 680 students to over 850 students in two years while having two new charter schools open within a five-mile radius. We strive for a warm, inviting community atmosphere by recognizing people’s strengths and letting them do what they do best. Mark Twain said, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Fill your school with people who are operating within their strengths and you will have a group of people who feel like they’re not even working… They are just getting paid to do what they enjoy doing!