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McGuffey teachers improve attitudes with sign program

McGuffey teachers Stacy Marciano, Rachel Hitching with student Amani Morris and his mother, Candice Strickling, in front of her home with sign recognizing that Morris was the a top student in his second grade class.

WARREN — Amani Morris, 7, was surprised and happy when teachers Rachel Hitchings and Stacy Marciano drove up to his Stephens Avenue home with a sign that read “Mrs. Hitchings and Mrs. Marciano are so proud of me!”

The second-grader is the third of 22 McGuffey PK-8 School students who at some time this year will have a version this sign placed in his / her front yard or mounted on a door.

“I was being good,” a smiling Morris said.

His mother, Candice Strickling, watched with pride as the teachers placed the sign in front of her door.

“I’m so proud of him,” she said. “At the beginning of the year, he was doing what he wanted to do in school. He would sometimes do his work. At other times he would not.”

“His teachers, his father and I would talk to him about it,” Strickling said. “One day, he decided he wanted to do the work and has been doing it ever since.”

Hitchings, a general education teacher, and Marciano, an intervention specialist, work together in the classroom to find ways to motivate and keep students excited about the work they are doing.

The teachers also are striving to connect with parents.

“Our kids are really excited about this,” Hitchings said. “They know someone is going to get a sign every week, but don’t know who it will be.”

The teachers honor students for a variety of reasons, including outstanding academic work, attendance, positive behavior changes or other improvement, Marciano said.

In addition to the yard signs, students receive bright yellow T-shirts with the words, “Get In The Game,” written across the front.

The students do not know who will receive the sign until it is delivered to their home.

The teachers are paying for the signs and T-shirts with their own money because they believe in the power of positive reinforcement and recognizing growth and leadership in the classroom.

“We call parents, but it is a surprise to students,” Marciano said. “We are trying to build closer relationships with our parents. Some are surprised when we come to their homes.”

Marciano said she believes the improved relationships with parents is helping attendance.

The program started earlier this school year after Hitchings saw a similar program on the internet. Hitchings said they are promoting being on a team with students in the classroom, with their parents and with the school’s administration.

“Our attendance has improved since this program began,” Hitchings said. “We now have parents who are answering and returning our phone calls. While there was a disconnect between parent and teachers, they know we are interested in their children’s success.”

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