When Pickering High School English Teacher Kristen Bruce was selected as a finalist for the 2019 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year, she was inspired by the #FindYourDoSomething campaign of the competition. She decided her "Do Something" would be to promote her school and get students engaged at PHS in Pickering, Louisiana.
"I wanted to really get the kids involved and make them feel like it's their school so they take ownership and are proud of their school and the things that they do there," Bruce said.
To do this, she was involved in creating an interclub council composed of leadership from all the clubs at PHS to plan different ways to get students involved, including getting a mascot and hosting "Color Days" for sporting events. Bruce recently created the #DoGreatThings@PHS website to increase school spirit and get the word out of all these new things happening at PHS.
The website consists of submitted stories and photos from students, parents and community members about events, programs and things happening at PHS. Content featured on #DoGreatThings@PHS is not only limited to PHS, and can also be from other schools in the Vernon Parish School District and across the state.
"It all comes from our motto: 'Be the Legacy,'" Bruce said. "We're really trying to get the kids more involved and to understand that high school has a purpose. It's where you learn the skills and prepare yourself to be ready to start your job or go to college or continue on in that education."
She said the website also meets a crucial need of gathering information for military families from Fort Polk with students enrolled at PHS so they know what opportunities are available at the school.
"We really do love Fort Polk and we really love our military students," Bruce said. "We just want to show them that they can be an active participant at PHS, and that we're working to provide more things for them to do with us while they're here."
Sophomores in Bruce's Honors English class at PHS manage the website. The students gather the content, and she approves what will go on the #DoGreatThings@PHS webpage.
"Sophomore year is when they make that final decision of what diploma path they are going to take -- vocational education or traditional diploma pathway," she said. "I selected that grade level because if they are getting this practice and really getting involved, they may get a better understanding of which pathway they want to take."
Bruce already sees the school changing for the better, including less discipline problems and more excitement and involvement from the students.
"We have students actually enjoying the school process because there are things for them now that are created by them, and they are really responding well to it," she said. "We're encouraging them to come up with ideas and better themselves, their school and its programs."
She hopes that the #DoGreatThings@PHS website receives submissions detailing good news from all over that state, and that its posts are seen by people across the country.
"I hope it becomes a movement where we're not just shoving knowledge into these kids' heads," Bruce said. "We're also teaching them how to promote themselves and that they can change the world sitting in a high school classroom."