January 3rd 2023
Receiving feedback is an essential part of being a good educator. Though the job revolves around teaching others, it is just as important to be able to learn and grow with the school environment as an individual, and as a whole. Students often have the chance to give feedback to their teachers, whether that be in the classroom, through vote appointed-awards, or online. The website Rate My Teachers is famous for this. But positive feedback, especially from other educators and staff, is something that can be less common. This is something that Teacher Development Liaison Mr. Stuppy sought to improve at the beginning of the school year.
As liaison, Mr. Stuppy’s objective is to work with both new and returning staff members to learn and understand the culture of the school and connect with students, but also connect with other teachers and staff as well.
“I think that staff morale is really important,” Mr. Stuppy said of the school environment. “Personally, I am a better teacher when I’m enjoying what I do, and I’m a better teacher when I’m enjoying where I am. Students are really important to a school, but the staff are also really important to a school, and feeling like the work [staff] put in is noticed and recognized is critical in all of that.”
Mr. Stuppy explained that the Teacher of the Year award, although very beneficial to teacher morale, can be limiting. “Each year a teacher of the year is chosen by students, but it’s [only] one teacher, and we have so many great members of our staff that are deserving of celebration.”
Mr. Stuppy was inspired by a concept he heard of at a student leadership conference. Someone had mentioned a “bowling pin award” that they got from a local bowling alley and passed around to staff. Seeing this as a fun way to celebrate the staff, he decided to implement it in Atholton.
The Raider of the Month award provides a way for teachers and staff to acknowledge each other for what they do, both inside and outside of the classroom. He explained, “It’s about camaraderie with the teachers, it’s about supporting people in need, it’s about taking time afterschool working on clubs and activities, and giving back to the school community, but that’s sort of a hard thing to quantify. What our goal is for the Raider of the Month is to put a spotlight on people who are the unsung heroes, because it’s great to be an unsung hero but it’s even greater to sing about heroes.”
How the award works is simple. Mr. Stuppy brought in six bowling pins, each with a different letter on it spelling out the word “raider.” He then picked six staff members, one for each bowling pin, each appointed based on the attribute that he thought applied for them. For the first month, the titles chosen were Reliability, Attitude, Involvement, Drive, Enrichment, and Relationships. At the beginning of the year, Mr. Stuppy stood before the staff and gave out the bowling pins, giving a speech about each nominee and noting both positive attributes that he and staff noticed, and celebrated them for their efforts as a school staff member.
For the month, each nominee would display their awards in their offices and classrooms. Spray painted gold and green or black and signed by the winner, they easily draw attention. Regarding their design, Mr. Stuppy called them “Gaudy–I would say they’re beautiful–but I would also say that they’re a disaster of spray paint… I think that’s kind of fun.”
The award holders each pick someone to pass the award onto, and assign a word or phrase based on the letter on the pin they received. At the end of the next month’s staff meeting, each award holder says something about their nominee and gives them their award. This way, not only are teachers getting acknowledged by their peers, they pass on the honor of the award to new award holders who see all the signatures of past winners on it.
Nominees said that the program is a sure hit. Mrs. Weinberg for example, won the D pin for Dedication, which was passed on to her from Mrs. Fowler. She was nominated for her dedication to the school and its student body. “It was an honor to receive this award from my colleagues,” she said. In her eyes, The Raider of the Month program helps with morale in the school. “It’s nice to know that your colleagues notice your dedication to our school.”
Another current winner is Mrs. Johnson-Rolle, who received the second R pin for Respect. “I was nominated by Mr. Thompson…he came in and covered a class for me, and he was really impressed with the class climate.” She said that just by observing the environment, “he could tell that they were learning a lot…that they had lots of respect for me, and the feeling is mutual, I have a lot of respect for my students.”
When she received the award, she was surprised, but it “brought a big smile” to her face nonetheless. When her students noticed her award being displayed and discussed it with her, she felt proud to share her achievement. “I commended them [for] being awesome in my absence.”
The Raider of the Month award also gives staff something to look forward to at the end of staff meetings, which Mr. Stuppy said can often “feel like you’re getting a lot of information given to you,” Mr. Stuppy explained.
In contrast, meetings now have a moment for staff to appreciate each others’ hard work, and bring some relief to the end of the meeting. “It’s the part of the staff meeting that we are suddenly all smiles for, “ Stuppy said. “It’s great to celebrate and it’s also great to hear different people talking. That’s been the impact I’ve seen…It’s great because it’s silly, it’s a silly thing, but people treat it with earnestness, which I really find to be a valuable trait.”
On the topic of picking her nominee, Mrs. Weinberg said that “it’s going to be hard to pick the next person since there are so many teachers that deserve this award.” She has had her eye on a nominee since the beginning of the school year. “I’ve really been watching this individual and they’ve really impressed me…I have a newfound respect,” she said.
Mr. Stuppy wants to impart a message to not only students, but teachers and staff that “school…can be a really fun place to be, and it’s nice to remember that from time to time.”