You could call Susan Eiler the pizza pixie, the slushie specialist, the candy connoisseur or the movie maven. Some students refer to her as Mom.
She puts together her roles under one all-encompassing title: “I’m the hodgepodge catch-all person,” Eiler said.
Eiler runs the high school’s media center and also tracks all information for the school’s Positive Behavior Intervention Supports, or PBIS system. That means she’s in charge of data for hundreds of students in the areas of attendance, academics and behavior. She also keeps her eye out for less trackable things, like kindness and helpfulness.
She is constantly working to get donations from area businesses for the PBIS reward system so students can earn prizes, pizza, ice cream, donuts, gift cards, a movie day and much more.
“I’m pretty sure every student got to do one thing (this school year), and if they did not then I’d like to find out what they need,” Eiler said.
She’s been successful in getting donations from area businesses like Domino’s Pizza, Lake Michigan Credit Union and Target to make PBIS extra special.
“I seek a lot of donations, a ton, because I see a lot of need at this school.”
She has a thick binder containing student data for PBIS, a program that sets common language and expectations schoolwide. At Godwin Heights, PBIS aims to recognize positive things students are doing and improvements they’re making. Students earn Godwin Bucks for good behavior to spend in the PBIS store, staffed by Eiler, on knickknacks, T-shirts, food, ever-popular slushies, even toothbrushes and deodorant.
“I do see kids motivated to earn rewards. I also see them excited when they get a reward,” Eiler said. “That is probably, to me, more endearing: them being excited about getting the reward, especially when they didn’t realize they (met the goal). They just did it because they were doing all the right things and they didn’t realize they were going to get anything out of it.”
Assistant Principal Michael Porco said Eiler’s work at Godwin is “huge.”
“She has the best interest of the kids at heart,” Porco said. “She’s all about more and more and more to give back to the kids in the community for positive reassurance. A lot of time our kids don’t get the recognition they deserve.”
Taking Pride in Success
Eiler is reinforcing PRIDE goals, which at Godwin stands for perseverance, respect, integrity, discipline and engaged. She describes herself as one piece in a puzzle of Godwin teachers and staff members who work together to create a sense of family. PBIS is enhanced by TrueSuccess, a character-building program for which students explore topics of respect, wisdom, thankfulness, self-control, perseverance, responsibility, encouragement, caring and integrity.
Staff members focus on rewarding positive behavior, not just disciplining the negative.
“It sets up a better dynamic in the school. This school system is more family-oriented than any I have ever worked in before,” Eiler said, noting that she’s served roles in six other districts.
Students said Eiler is a key example of someone who creates strong bonds at Godwin. Said senior Lazevious Steele, “We can all relate to her and we understand that she understands us.”
Added senior Enida Yahaj, “We are the Godwin family. She is definitely someone who embodies that and makes everyone feel like their accomplishments matter.”
Eiler has worked in Godwin for two years. She previously worked for Michigan Works! in youth employment and training. She has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University in family studies and sociology. She and her husband, Justin, have four sons, ages 4 to 14.
Power in Positivity
Eiler and other staff members create incentives and set monthly, semester and seasonal goals, such as Zero Tardy December and Free Slushie November. One month, students received rewards on the spot for being caught with a book. They can earn blue or gold tickets for good grades, attendance and behavior, allowing them free admission to school events.
Students also have earned an ice cream social for no phone violations, prizes for no absences or tardies, a movie day for no discipline issues and donut Fridays for turning in all assignments.
“It builds ton of relationships between me and the students, between the teachers and the students,” Eiler said. “It’s going to set them up so they know how to proceed outside of school, be better friends with their friends, be responsible, be respectful, show up for work.”
There’s power in positivity, and Eiler sees it in the faces of the students who come in the store for treats, who don T-shirts celebrating college acceptance, and when students say they feel welcome at Godwin Heights because their accomplishments are acknowledged.
“When you’re dealing with family, positive is a great way to be,” Eiler said.