Fun Principal Incentives To Motivate Students

Stepping outside of their ordinary roles is a proven way for principals to motivate students to meet fundraising and achievement goals.

by Emily Graham


Maryland elementary school principal Brian Baudoin is serious about education—so serious that he once roamed the halls dressed as a rooster and did the chicken dance during physical education classes.

That’s also why a principal in Wisconsin puckered up to a goat, and one in Tennessee sampled a rare delicacy: a chocolate-covered cockroach.

These administrators, and many like them, find that a little public humiliation goes a long way toward motivating students to meet fundraising and achievement goals. Check out some of our favorite admin antics.

You’ve Been Slimed

For principals who are especially good sports, sliming can be a lot of fun. There are different recipes for slime and some include ingredients like shampoo, laundry detergent, or even glue. But PTA leaders at Randolph Elementary in Lincoln, Neb., found a gentler way to slime their principal: A  recipe with vanilla pudding mix, water, and green food coloring did the trick. Interested in a variation on this basic concoction (like adding glitter)? Type “slime” into the search box on Pinterest and you’ll be amazed at what you find.

Pucker Up

At St. Anthony Parish School in Athens, Wis., a pledge by the staff to sing karaoke and kiss a goat motivated students to more than double scrip sales. Principal Lucy McCarthy promised the reward if students made at least $60,000 in sales. Over two weeks, the fundraiser brought in $68,000, nearly three times as much as the year before.

Christina Giguiere, a principal from Irvine, Calif., kept her promise to kiss a potbellied pig when the Canyon View Elementary PTA met its fundraising goal. “She was a little smelly, and I got a little muddy on my face for sure,” Giguiere told the Mercury News. “She was pretty cute, though.”

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Roughing It

Principal Wes Nicholas promised his students that if they raised $10,000 in the PTO’s first fun run, he would spend a night on the school roof. The students at Asotin (Wash.) Elementary collected $22,000 in pledges, and Nicholas headed to the roof with a tent and a sleeping bag—in the middle of October. When students assembled the next morning on the playground for the pledge of allegiance, Nicholas emerged from the tent in his pajamas, carrying a large stuffed animal and letting the students think they had woken him up.

One Giant Leap

Las Vegas principal Eve Breier is braver than most. When Imagine School students met a sales goal in their popcorn fundraiser, she tried the SkyJump, a tourist attraction where people wear a harness and fall more than 800 feet off the side of a hotel. A local TV news station aired footage of the jump.

Hanging Around

Mike Dmiterchik has a habit of losing bets with his students. He wagered with students at Rehoboth Elementary in Rehoboth Beach, Del., that they couldn’t raise $40,000 from the PTO gift-wrap fundraiser. He ended up duct-taped to a wall in the school gym, hovering several feet above the floor. The school’s top 25 sellers had the privilege of taping Dmiterchik while the rest of the students watched. As a final blow, a student placed a pink bow on his head.

Principal Maureen Fyan from Saint Theresa Catholic School in Phoenix, Ariz., was duct-taped to the wall by 3rd graders, who as a class raised the most money schoolwide during a fall fundraiser. Students earned 1 inch of tape for each item sold. “To get the kids involved, it was all worth it,” she told the Catholic Sun.

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A Sweet Deal

Principal Chip Fissel offered to let Alloway Creek Intermediate School students pour ice cream sundae toppings on him if they met the school’s readathon fundraising goal. Students at the Littlestown, Pa., school covered Fissel in chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and more while he sat in a kiddie pool.

Don’t Chicken Out


With school enrollment reduced by redistricting, it was more important than ever for the Tulip Grove Elementary PTA catalog sale to be successful. So when the fundraising coordinator at the Bowie, Md., school asked principal Brian Baudoin whether he was willing to wear a chicken costume to get students excited about the sale, he didn’t think twice. Baudoin challenged students to sell 740 items, and they exceeded the goal by almost 30 percent. Baudoin donned the multicolored suit for an entire school day, but it wasn’t all fun and games. “I reinforced the message while I was in the suit about setting goals in life, making a plan to achieve them, and achieving them,” he says.

Similarly, after students at Rose Hamilton Elementary in Centerville, Ind., met a Thanksgiving food drive goal, principal Lee Stienbarger put on a turkey costume and led students in a choreographed dance. “It doesn’t hurt for kids to know you can laugh at yourself,” Stienbarger told the Palladium-Item.

Wrapping It Up

Principal Shawn Maguire is always looking for new ways to motivate students at Rockport (Mass.) Elementary. He promised that students from the two top-selling classes could wrap him in toilet paper in front of the whole school. The assembly took place on Halloween, and Maguire, who was wearing a devil costume, soon looked like a mummy.

Top preK sellers in Califon (N.J.) Public School’s holiday gift wrap sale earned the privilege of helping wrap up principal Dan Patton from head to toe. Because the young students didn’t have much experience wrapping, they were assisted by the student council president and a teacher’s aide.

Bugging Out

In her years as an elementary school principal, Kellye Goostree has shown that she’s up for just about anything. The principal at Cedar Grove Elementary in Smyrna, Tenn., bravely lets students decide what she’ll do if they meet their PTO fundraising goals. Over time, she and the assistant principal have held and kissed an 8-foot boa constrictor, kissed a cow, and eaten canned dog and cat food. When Goostree ate a chocolate-covered cockroach, staffers positioned a video camera to give students a close-up look at the bug, and she stood next to a microphone so they could hear it crunching in her mouth.

Turtle Power

To reward students for exceeding the book fair goals at South Side Elementary in Harrisburg, Pa., an administrator rode a tricycle throughout the school for a day. Not only did former acting assistant principal Marvin London make the rounds on three wheels; he also did it dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

Crosstown Rivalry

Two Westminster, Md., principals agreed to a monthlong competition to see which school could collect the most box tops. The principal of the losing school had to wear a T-shirt from the rival school. West Middle School principal Amy Gromada dutifully wore an “I (heart) East” T-shirt and publicly declared that East Middle School rocks.

Common Principal Stunts

Kiss, kiss: Kids love to see grownups smooch just about any kind of animal. Newspapers have written stories about principals kissing pigs, cows, goats, donkeys, even a fish.

In costume: Students get a kick out of seeing normally serious teachers and principals wearing costumes. Popular options include dressing as an animal or a book character and making an avid sports fan wear a rival team’s jersey.

Grossed out: Inspired by Fear Factor and How To Eat Fried Worms, principals have ingested a variety of insects and unpalatable fare like pet food.

Dishing it out: Kids get to play with food, drenching the principal in ice-cream sundae toppings or covering the principal in a hot dog suit with ketchup and mustard.

On top of things: Several principals have camped out on the school roof overnight or moved their entire office to the roof. The truly brave ones have skydived onto school grounds.

Originally posted in 2008 and updated regularly.


# Nicole 2008-02-28 22:16
Go Mr. B!!!
# almaretta gray 2008-07-21 11:33
to attract kids you sometimes have to do childish things. words i live by
# alicia 2008-10-21 16:03
What happens to the board policy stating no solicitation of charitable donations from children during school hours? How does this fit in here when the principals are clearly asking the students to donate money?
# Lynn R. 2009-08-12 02:44
Excellent ideas! Now if I could just talk our principal into a costume....
For alicia: the principals are NOT asking the students to donate money - they are providing an incentive to the student body to meet or exceed a fundraising goal, issuing a challenge that they'll appreciate. Fundraisers are not donations - they are the purchase of a product for an amount that provides some profit to the institution running the fundraiser. Donation drives are more of a "here's the hat, put in what you can/what you think it's worth"" type of event.
# DJ Smith 2010-09-17 17:51
My school did a canned food drive, and called it "Can The Principal". The kids brought in canned food items and stacked them in front of the main door to the principal's office. The kids really had fun teasing the principal about keeping him in his office, and we were able to donate a lot of food to our local food bank office.
# Rachel 2012-01-01 20:24
Our 8th grade choir Teacher made a bet with us that if we memorized our new song in one week she would get her favorite tune tattooed on her ankle!!!! To this day her ankle reads... Twinkle Twinkle little star how I wonder what you are
# Monika Castello 2020-01-14 18:14
I was selected by the principal to stand in for him during the principal challenge dare. It was being pied by students and I ended up tied in a chair while in my bikini pied unfortunately some rowdy parent/s decided to untied my bikini top so I ended up being pied topless to the laughs of everyone

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