Gotta Keep Readin’
To liven up this year’s Read Across America program, teachers and 5th graders at the Birch Meadow School in Reading, Mass., performed a flash mob dance at the kickoff assembly to the tune of the Black-Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling.” Then, throughout the rest of the monthlong program, the K-4 students also learned the dance moves. All 410 kids performed it together at the closing assembly.
A Warm and Witty Welcome
There’s nothing like a little humor to kick off the school year. PTO leaders at Prairie View Elementary in Spokane, Wash., produce a “Welcome Back to School” photo card that lists the name of each board member along with a photo of the person wearing a clown nose, funny glasses, or other amusing prop.
Add These to Your Newsletter
Looking for something new to include in your PTO newsletter? How about a healthy recipe or a brainteaser? The Colfax Elementary PTO in Pittsburgh does both. One delicious recipe was for couscous with apples and cinnamon—an introduction explains a little bit about where the food is from. And students who answer the riddle correctly are entered in a drawing for a gift card. Fun!
“C” Is for Cookie
Everyone loves a homemade treat during the holidays, especially hardworking teachers. The James G. Blaine Elementary PTA in Chicago secretly gathered volunteers to surprise staff members with Operation Cookie. More than 50 bakers contributed treats, which were prettily packaged with a note reading “One of the real joys of the holiday season is the opportunity to say thank-you and to wish you the very best for the new year” and signed “Blaine Parents.”
Ice Cream and Other Rewards
The South Polk Elementary PTO instituted a great student recognition program beginning last year. Each month, teachers select a student from their class who has shown outstanding achievement or improvement in categories like academics and attitude. Every nominee gets a certificate and an ice-cream cone (provided free by a local merchant); the assistant principal also selects a winner for each grade level, who receives a “Student of the Month” pin, a $15 certificate for the school store, and public recognition in the Fort Polk, La., school’s entrance area.
One Hip Principal
File this one under Fun Principal Antics: The Washington Elementary PTO in Caldwell, Idaho, sponsored a luau to promote its spring book fair, complete with a performance by real hula dancers. Then, as an incentive to meet the PTO’s goal of selling 500 books, the principal promised to dress up as a hula dancer himself and serve the students lunch. They reached that goal just three days later!
From the Desk of...
PTA leaders at Cherry Lane Elementary in Suffern, N.Y., tried something a little different communications-wise: They recruited one parent from each classroom to be point person and send out reminders, updates, and other emails to the rest of the parents in the class. The personal touch worked! More than 30 new parents volunteered with the group, doubling their base from the previous year.
Students Learn To Help Others
A holiday season activity at Cedar Grove Christian Academy has grown into a year-round effort for some students. Through Operation Christmas Child, students at the Philadelphia school collect toiletries, crayons, small books and toys, and other similar items to fill shoe boxes, which are then sent to needy children in other countries. “This helps to show students how they are blessed even when things seem tough and to encourage them to help others,” says PTF committee chair Joye Nottage.
A Bigger Board
The Indialantic (Fla.) Elementary PTO added several key board positions that helped them improve communications and reach their goals. The official gratitude coordinator writes thank-you notes to hardworking members (and occasionally “flocks” lawns with pink flamingos late at night). A community service chairwoman instituted quarterly beach cleanup days and a communitywide clothing swap. And for the first time ever, the PTO has a staff appreciation chairwoman who focuses exclusively on sending warm fuzzies to everyone from the principal to the cafeteria aides.
Flourishing Appreciation Efforts
A tree of thanks at Logos Christian Academy in Niles, Ill., was a visual reminder during Teacher Appreciation Week of just how highly staff members are valued. Each student wrote a short thank-you note on a leaf-shaped tag, which was then pinned to the tree. Students also wrote notes of gratitude to parent volunteers to thank them for their efforts.
The Art of Art Shows
Every student at East Elementary in Lancaster, Ohio, had at least one piece included in a PTO-sponsored art show last year, but they received more than just basic art instruction. Before the event, students watched a slide show that taught proper etiquette, manners, and art critiquing. “Our students really listened,” says PTO president Beth Craft, “including dressing up for the event and being on their best behavior.”
Special Teachers, Special Night
At the St. Charles Catholic School in Lima, Ohio, parents don’t always have a chance to learn about the enrichment teachers—such as the library, computer lab, and Spanish instructors—and what they taught. So the PTO held a “Specials” night for parents to see each area. The teachers had a chance to give a brief tour of their room and explain how students spend their time there.
Eating Well for Less
Parents and students from Stephen Olney Elementary in North Providence, R.I., were treated to an after-school family assembly that addressed healthy eating habits on a budget. The workshop covered basic nutrition facts and tips for improving overall health and also included an interactive, hands-on chef’s demo featuring seasonal ingredients that wouldn’t break the bank.
Potluck Promotes Involvement
To get non-English-speaking parents involved and feeling part of the school community, PTO leaders at the Howard C. Reiche Community School in Portland, Maine, hold an international potluck each fall. “Many of our immigrant families cannot volunteer due to limited English skills, but they definitely know how to cook and contribute some delicacies from their countries,” says community coordinator Sylvie Montello. School staff members serve the meals, and the PTO also plans some form of entertainment for the event.
More Than Just a Meeting
If you’re looking to make your meetings more bearable, try these tricks from the Trinity Lutheran School PTL in Burr Ridge, Ill. Leaders schedule 30 minutes at the start of meetings for parent-teacher education sessions, which this past year included a police department representative talking about Internet safety and an accountant who addressed teaching kids to manage money. They also make a point of keeping the rest of the meeting to 30 minutes (45 max!), and they offer free pizza and babysitting to attendees.
Water, Water Everywhere
It’s important to stay hydrated during athletic events, so parent group leaders at the St. Edward-Epiphany School in Bon Air, Va., came up with a plan to make water stations fun for their 5K Eagle Challenge. For the “Don’t Drop, Stop” competition, parent-led crews at each station decorated the stops around a theme, then dressed in costume to hand out water to the runners. Student runners could pause for a drink at each one, helping decide which station would win the Best Water Stop prize.
Revealing Hidden Talents
As a way to showcase all students’ talents, strengths, and creativity, the Mariposa Elementary Collaborative Alliance of Parents, Teachers, and Staff for the past two years has held a noncompetitive performance event. Parent mentors give individual kids or small groups guidance in singing, dancing, poetry, comedy, magic, athletics, or any number of other demonstrations. This past year, the three-hour show highlighted 25 displays by 78 students, who performed for a large crowd of Agoura Hills, Calif., community members.