When Calling Students Out is a Very Good Thing

Students get to spend their key cards on goodies and school spirit wear

Wyoming Junior High seventh-grader Siana DeJesus doesn’t like to be the center of attention. But it felt pretty good to be honored with purple keys in front of the class, awarded for her reading test score and for making the honor roll.

“I’m quiet, but I like when the teacher calls my name and everybody looks at me and claps because I did something good,” said Siana, who hopes to become a pediatrician someday.

Throughout the school, lanyards around students’ necks are jangling with purple keys, earned for things like displaying acts of kindness, achieving high reading and math scores and making the honor roll. Students who aren’t known as scholastic or athletic superstars are earning the awards.

“The keys give people a grin. If you get your name called, it puts a smile on your face,” said seventh-grader Edward Trimberger, who has earned keys for perfect attendance and making the honor roll.

Counselor Michelle Potter created “3 Keys to Success,” after brainstorming for a meaningful way to honor junior high students. The three areas of success fall under the categories, “Showing Up, Stepping Up and Standing Up.” The program kicked off in October.

Students receive lanyards, purple keys and key cards for monthly perfect attendance, being on the Scholastic Reading Inventory and Scholastic Math Inventory Wall of Fame for high test scores, being selected as Student of the Month for their grade level and achieving significant improvements in their SRI and SMI scores.

Students keep the keys as tangible accolades no one can take away from them, and spend the paper key cards on snacks, prizes and Wyoming Wolf gear.

“Each month people are ready to get their keys, see how they did and what they accomplished,” said Edward.

Seaira Mikaya and Edward Trimberger check out awards
Seaira Mikaya and Edward Trimberger check out awards

Shining a Light on Overlooked Students

Potter and fellow counselor Brooke Davis wanted to reveal what the quieter, back-of-the class students were achieving along with the students who always receive attention.

“The desire was to recognize all students and how hard they are working, and let them know we recognize that,” Potter said.

Students have already earned 837 lanyards and 2,713 keys at the school, which enrolls 963 students.

“We have kids who normally would not earn things earning them,” Davis said. “There are some kids you would never notice. This is their time to come to the front of the room and shine.”

Another intentional part of the program is that it’s very specific, Potter said. Teachers pass out the keys for concrete reasons, and can’t withhold them even if a student makes a poor choice.

Going for the ‘Extra Skittle’

Students said the program motivates them to work harder, and has even gotten a little competitive.

“I think it’s motivating people to have higher expectations,” Edward said. “Everyone’s trying to get that extra Skittle (candy prize). People are setting higher goals to do better in school.”

Seaira Mikaya said the program fits into the big picture of accomplishing big things.

“All kids have big dreams, but they don’t have the commitment to fulfill those dreams,” said the seventh-grader, who has earned five keys: for math, reading scores and attendance. “We get the keys because we did something successful, and we want to keep doing more successful things.”

Eighth-grader Jaznay Lora, who has earned a whopping 10 keys, said the program helps students develop skills they will need for successful careers.

“It sets you up for the real world,” Jaznay said.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio

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