Rachel Atkinson

Greenbrier Middle School
Greenbrier, Arkansas

Best Practices

1) For the last several years, I have led our building in improving and implementing a positive behavior system that includes rewards, as well as interventions. Staff, parents, and students took part in creating our PRIDE matrix that represents what perseverance, respect, integrity, dependability, and empowerment looks like on our campus. The matrix is posted in every classroom and around the building to teach students the skills they will need in order to be successful at the secondary level and in life. This year, all teachers have been trained in Character Strong and we have used this program to analyze areas that our students struggle with during early secondary. Conflict resolution and empathy are two areas that we have targeted in Fast Focus intervention time. During this Fast Focus time, I oversee the activities that include relationship building and social emotional learning lessons from our Character Strong program. Every student also has an adult advocate through their Fast Focus group teacher. While our assessment wall tracks achievement and growth with quantitative data, it also uniquely tracks qualitative data of relationships and connections with students. Students with minimal or no connections with adults at school are selected by a teacher as his/her “claimed kid.” by which teachers claim responsibility for a student’s success. At GMS, I have also implemented and improved our reward systems. Every student is recognized throughout the school year with academic, PRIDE, and/or Clubnection awards at quarterly awards assemblies based on their strengths, growth, and/or achievement. Teachers also nominate students and staff weekly who are recognized as going above and beyond in PRIDE. After looking at factors contributing to students not being successful, I have also implemented an Ignite Learning reward, a system designated to encourage students to be their best self. This reward is held each quarter and has criteria set for four categories: no behavior referrals, no more than two absences, no more than four tardies, and no missing assignments. This year we implemented another component to this reward that included a restorative process for students not earning the reward. Students meet together in small groups with a mentor teacher to reflect on what positive behavior looks like at school, complete a short mini lesson on a target behavior, and then set goals on what they will need to improve upon to meet the PRIDE behavior expectations. I feel that a school-wide PBIS system establishes a social culture and the behavior support needed to improve social, emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes for all students.

2) I feel that leading and modeling for teachers in order to develop them as leaders is an important aspect of administration. I have worked at GMS to grow leaders by having conversations with staff members about their goals and facilitating learning opportunities. One of the biggest factors that enables teachers to lead is to make sure they are in a position to lead. This year, our building goal was centered around participating in a professional community and building relationships. Every staff member is part of one of our building committees, ranging from things like Leadership, PBIS, or Culture Committee. I offer opportunities for staff members to learn from each other. We conduct peer observations during team meetings, and teachers have the opportunity to facilitate sessions at our professional development meetings. I have worked to develop leadership capacity within the core leadership team. Our team has attended the Arkansas Leadership Academy team training and the PLC Leadership Development Series. As a leader, it is important that you model best practice for teachers. As a SPED teacher, I had the opportunity to co-teach with various teachers and learned a lot along the way. Throughout the year, I meet with our c0-teaching pairs and provide them with strategies to implement within their classroom. I will go into these classrooms and model strategies. A wide variety of learning experiences are embedded into our Content Enhancement Series that a majority of our teachers have been trained in. In order to ensure that everyone is equipped with the skills to implement these within the classroom, I created instructional videos describing the routine, as well as actual classroom instruction modeling routine being taught. Currently, I am guiding staff through the implementation of standards based learning, incorporating CFA’s with proficiency scales. Eventually, my goal is to lead staff through the progression of standards based grading and reporting. Because the Railroad Track Model of Group Development also drives the school culture, I intentionally plan time for relationship building through fellowship nights, Back to School family picnics, etc. One of the best examples of this is the idea that I had called “The Happy Wagon.” The administration team pulls a wagon loaded wit themed snacks to teacher classrooms as a surprise. Past cards have had coke floats, candied apples, popcorn, and sodas. I have not only been an integral part of building the capacity of my staff, but others outside of my community too. After receiving the Arkansas Diamond Schools to Watch Award, our leadership team presented at the Schools to Watch National Conference on GMS systems. My co-teacher and I presented at the University of Central Arkansas to novice teachers on level 2 co-teaching strategies. My principal and I presented at AAEA on the reading programs that were recently implemented at GMS. GMS has fielded requests for tours and email communications from schools interested in our work. I believe administrators must continuously model best practices and provide staff with leadership opportunities in order to build leaders within our building.