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Team Huston! Celebrates Personal Growth and Student Accomplishment

Students in Huston Middle School are not only working towards academic success during the school day, but are also focused on discovering ways to grow as well-rounded, kind and caring individuals.

Team Huston!, a positive behavior intervention and support plan (PBIS), was piloted by eighth-graders last year and was such a success that it is now a school-wide initiative embraced by all Huston Middle School students and teachers.

The goal of PBIS is to promote a culture of personal growth by providing character education, positive reinforcement, consistent consequences and incentives that celebrate student accomplishment. To achieve this, all middle school grade levels work on a monthly theme, such as responsibility, hope & goals, empathy & kindness and respect. Within each grade level, students have embraced unique ways to understand and engage in each theme.

In eighth grade, students receive “caught you being good!” tickets when teachers see them genuinely displaying the trait, which they can cash in for rewards like movie and snack day, monthly donut days and an end of the year Kennywood trip.

This approach has been hugely successful and has even inspired one student, Justi Naccarato, to spearhead a donation drive for a local animal shelter with whom middle school art classes had partnered for a school project.

Students Emma Sonafelt and Stephane McLafferty have also taken these monthly traits to heart by initiating a campaign they would like to dead during the second semester. Their slogan, “Stand Up, Speak Up, Stay Strong,” promotes respect for self and other students. They plan to have a t-shirt design contest with this motto, and the winning design will be printed on shirts and may be purchased. The proceeds will go to the “Stomp Out Bullying” campaign.

Seventh-graders have put a slightly different spin on PBIS, focusing on adding a personal touch to reward positive behavior. Each week, teachers generate a list of students who have displayed the monthly trait. Those students receive letters to their parents in the mail, a certificate and have their name announced in the monthly announcements.

Because sixth-grade students are new to the building, this grade level embodies a teaching approach to this plan. Health teachers include character education within their lesson plans to help students better understand each monthly trait and internalize it. Additionally, each sixth-grade teacher has adopted a month to create lesson plans and activities based on that particular theme.

“Teachers are genuinely excited about planning these activities,” says Huston Middle School Assistant Principal Autumn Turk. “It’s something that is set outside of the academic world that helps to prepare students as individuals and give them the skills that they’ll need for the future.”

In February, sixth-grade students will also be taking a multiple intelligences inventory to raise self-awareness about how they learn best and what makes them unique as an individual. As a reward for the February theme, Individuality and Creativity, students can earn time in the high school Makerspace workshop, as well as other incentives throughout the year.

“Kids seem to be internalizing it and proud of it,” says Turk. “There have been times when I’ve been walking through the halls and students want to show me posters they’ve put up in the hallway or an activity they’ve been working on.”

Moving into the second half of the year, Team Huston! will focus on perseverance, showing pride in our school and community and celebrating diverse cultures.

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