By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
Three little words. “Watching Kids Grow.” “We Get Along.” “School Lunch Rocks.” “I Love Kids.” “Ask Me Anything.”
Inspired by the Saturday morning segment “Your Three Words” on Good Morning America, the Monticello School District decided to do their own version, promoting the great things going on in our schools and the amazing people working in the schools.
“It illustrates our ownership and pride in the Monticello School systems and that we are a team of players centered on the best outcomes for all students,” said Deb Bowman, retired teacher and mentor.
Gretchen Kriegel, director of Development and Curriculum with Monticello schools, said this whole idea started about five years ago when the district was looking at a redesign. She said one of the goals to come out of district discussions was strategic planning, including general community support for the schools and students. Kriegel said it’s not that community support is lacking here, but how can they make the public more aware of school events and what is going on inside the schools.
The school started a Facebook page, offering information when the time comes.
“It’s all about what goes on within the schools,” said Kriegel. “People are not always aware of things.”
With the district part of the Grant Wood AEA, they meet and work along side other school districts. Kriegel said they all started reading the book “Schools Cannot Do It Alone” by Jamie Vollmer. This group of schools then started having conversations on ways to generate support for their schools.
“Community support is a big component,” said Kriegel.
“It’s hard to enhance education on our own,” said Chris Anderson, school superintendent. “This is a way to get the community involved.”
From there, ideas were presented to the School Improvement and Advisory Committee (SIAC), made up of staff, retired teachers, administration members and community members. This is how the school’s latest project started…
Kriegel, working with Deb Bowman and Tricia Lambert, third grade teacher, put their heads together and came up with the idea of making a video, showing why school staff and faculty members are proud of what they do. The project started at the beginning of the current school year. Kriegel said they wanted people to have a positive outlook on the district.
They contacted everyone associated with the district and had them either photograph or video tape themselves showing off their three words message.
“It was completely staff-driven,” acknowledged Kriegel. Everybody came up with their own three words and how to get their points across to the audience: the community.
Bowman added, “Most people went right into it and were very excited.”
“People were creative and had fun,” said Kriegel. For example, the staff at Shannon Elementary School wore Iowa State and University of Iowa attire with the message “We Get Along,” meaning, despite differences, everyone in the school gets along. Great message and something people can relate to. The cooks for the school district tried their hands at playing musical instruments while relaying the idea that “School Lunch Rocks.” Mr. Bohlken, Mr. Kremer and Mr. Schmitt, industrial tech teachers, were proud to say, “No Fingers Lost!” If you know Cindy Plummer at all, you know she is the go-to person at Carpenter Elementary. That is why her obvious message was “Ask Me Anything.”
Kriegel said no one was given any specific directions; they just ran with it.
As for which groups to include in the video project, Kriegel said it was a no-brainer.
“We wanted to include every one who is around the students.”
Teachers, bus drivers, cooks, coaches, associates, the administration and even the school board took part in the fun. Once all of the photos and footage was shot, Kriegel (assisted by Emma Lubben) worked at piecing it all together for an almost seven-minute video, complete with inspiring songs, “Home” by Phillip Phillips and “Count On Me” by Mat Kearney. She said she e-mailed everyone for song choices and the highest voted-upon songs were chosen.
“This video sends out a positive message to the community,” Kriegel said of the finished product.
The video was released online on Sept. 14 and by Sept. 24, it had almost 1,000 views on YouTube. Kriegel said it’s been getting about 200 views a day!
So now that the video is out there for the whole world to see, what is the next step towards this project as a whole? Bill Gilkerson, middle school principal, said it depends on how receptive the audience is. With plenty of positive comments on Facebook concerning the video, it’s safe to say people are excited for what’s to come.
“I’m blown away at this community!” exclaimed Kriegel of the great feedback. She said people have been sharing the video left and right on their own Facebook pages and she’s gotten comments from former students about how proud they are of their school.
“The effort was minor, the joy it brought and the laughs it created were major,” offered Bowman. “It was a lot of fun.” Bowman said people want the school to send their video into Good Morning America.
“This is the gateway for future conversations down the road,” said Anderson. “It helps build positive energy and support.”
Anderson said the next step is to map out all of the various service organizations in the area and have conversations with these groups on what the school does and why.
“There are new things going on all the time,” he said.
Teacher Tricia Lambert said everyone has his/her own talents and hopefully, down the road, these people can come into the schools and be a resource for additional learning for the students.
“We can make all sorts of connections with the community,” said Lambert. “They become resources to support the school.”
She said you want people to feel proud of their school and concerned about education and the students’ well being.
Phil and Lavonne Owen who are members of SIAC said they are pleased with the video project.
“It gets the ball rolling,” said Phil on getting the community rallying behind the school. “It gets people excited.”
Phil said this project is proof creativity and enthusiasm can be unfolded and utilized to do great things. “A lot of people want to make things happen,” he said.
To view the video, go to “Monticello Schools” on Facebook and click the link.
PHOTOS: Top: The Monticello fourth grade teachers Steph Isaac, Lindsay Ryan and Angie Wink relay the message “Watching Kids Grow.” Multiple still photos and videos were submitted for the school district’s Three Little Words project. Bottom: Monticello music teachers Nick Thumma, Jill Dobel, Donna Wall and Brett Kneiss display their three little words “Music Makes Connections.” (Photos submitted)