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Good behavior encouraged at home

Sparta—Parent Joel Zavala said teachers do “an amazing job keeping the children engaged.” He should know; he has three children who attend Sparta Area Schools and got a taste of the challenges in the spring when school buildings closed and children had to learn from home. 

When his first-grader, Joliet Zavala-Morales, told him she was asked to make a video and send it to her teachers at Ridgeview Elementary, “she was very insistent and seemed thrilled about doing it,” he said. Joliet found the assignment a bit challenging but in the end, “she felt closer to school,” Zavala said.

That was exactly the point, said Jodi West, Kent School Services Network coordinator, who is part of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports team for the school. KSSN coordinators support children and families in schools and focus on issues surrounding behavior and attendance.

First-grader Alicia Silva shares her idea of being kind

“It is just one more opportunity to bring Ridgeview to their homes,” West said. 

Throughout the school year, Ridgeview staff encourages positive behavior with a variety of rewards including handing out “golden tickets” that are used to redeem prizes. 

The reinforcement is used at school by practicing good behavior in hallways, on the bus and in the lunchroom.

Helping out at home like doing the dishes, feeding chickens or other chores became a way students could earn golden tickets while doing virtual learning. First-grader Jabriel Vasquez sent in a video of himself doing the dishes and earned one that way.

In some cases, when a teacher has had a successful virtual class with students, everyone is surprised with a golden ticket. “We have had a wonderful response to this,” West said.

Tickets earned while at home are being tallied with those earned during face-to-face instruction and are redeemed at the Ridgeview school store, which is filled with an assortment of prizes including fancy pencils, candy, and dollar store and donated items.

And it’s getting solid results. West said referral data indicates an 85% reduction in behavioral correction since the implementation of the reward system.

Zavala called the video task “a very creative way to make this time at home more exciting. Over time they get a little bored. Two to three months into this, it was nice to have a new challenge and something she was looking forward to.”   

And it wasn’t just the video task and reward plan that impressed Zavala. “I so appreciate everything these teachers do,” he said. “They keep finding ways to keep the students involved. I have three kids and get notification from three different teachers, and I get overwhelmed. I can’t imagine what they do with 25-30 parents emails and calls.

“They are all amazing.”

Kindergartener Quinton Middleton learns to be kind with the family cat

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Janice Holst
Janice Holst is a reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio

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