On the honor roll: Norway Elementary named among nation’s ‘Showcase Schools’

NORWAY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL second-grade teacher Mara Klein welcomes student Aryan Collins to class with a high five. The school has been selected to receive the Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase Schools Award for the past school year. (Terri Castelaz/Daily News photo)

NORWAY — Norway Elementary School has been named one of the Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase Schools for the 2022-2023 school year.

The recognition comes from the Flippen Group that honors districts where “educators go above and beyond to create safe and connected learning environments for students.”

The Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase Schools Award was granted to 469 school campuses across the country that demonstrated a high level of performance and a positive culture and climate for learning.

Norway Elementary was chosen after an on-site evaluation process done by a national instructor with staff and students, said Rico Meneghini, early kindergarten through eighth-grade principal at Norway-Vulcan Area Schools.

Last year, the CKH program was selected by staff and received school board support as well.

NORWAY ELEMENTARY kindergartner Kaylee Schupp reads a story to her teacher, Maria Lasater.

NORWAY ELEMENTARY kindergartner Kaylee Schupp reads a story to her teacher, Maria Lasater.

“The world is changing. It’s not that kids have changed, childhood has changed. They are growing up in a completely different world,” Meneghini said. “We really need to show these kids that we care about them and to make that bond — that’s what Capturing Kids’ Hearts is all about.”

The CKH process equips educators with the skills they need to change the trajectory of students’ lives.

The entire elementary team went through a two-day training last February.

“We began to implement pieces of the social, emotional learning tool and this fall we committed 100 percent to use the program with fidelity,” Meneghini said.

It’s all about being intentional and not taking things for granted, he explained.

Each morning starts with teachers and staff greeting their students at the door.

“We teach kids how to shake hands, how to look eye to eye,” he said.

A favorite part of the program for Meneghini, as well as teachers, is kicking their day off with “good things.”

“There is enough bad going on in the world and we want to celebrate the good things in our life,” Meneghini said.

Another component of the CKH is the social contract, where each classroom creates a personalized contract that they follow. This allows students to hold each other accountable for being a responsible and respectful citizen. “The old way we said it was ‘classroom rules,'” he said.

Second-grade teacher Mara Klein — who was already familiar with the system as she had gone through the training while she student taught at Negaunee School District — thinks the reason it’s working is that the students have ownership.

“The kids really love creating a contract and holding each other accountable,” Klein said.

Another important aspect is the focus to build that relationship between teacher and student. “They want that connect,” she explained. “If I’m running late, they will even wait for me at the door for their greeting.”

Her second-graders won’t leave until she launches them, Klein added. “I say the same thing every day — ‘Love you, proud of you, see you tomorrow’ — and they repeat it back to me.”

Klein credits the little changes that have been put into practice, such as consequence system. “Students will check each other with a reminder they aren’t following the contract instead of tattling,” she said. “They all work together in the classroom and do well with it.”

One-on-one reading time is another way kindergarten teacher Maria Lasater connects with her students.

Creating a safe and welcoming environment allows for optimal learning and student success, she added.

“CKH has improved our overall school culture and challenges us all to be the best that we can be,” Lasater said.

Although Norway Elementary has only used the program one year, Meneghini has seen the positive effect the program has had on the school, as well as providing great support as a principal.

“It’s been very successful,” he said.

Having this consistency has helped in communicating with families as well, he added.

“We hope to soon become the first in Michigan to be a K-12 district certified as a national showcase school,” Meneghini said. “I want to grow to the point we are using the model at our school board meetings.”


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