Eastern Pulaski Elementary Helps Students Become Their Best
Writer / Lois Tomaszewski
Photographer / Jubilee Edgell
The hope of educators is that the children entrusted in their care achieve success in life – however that is defined. At Eastern Pulaski Elementary School, that mission is a part of the everyday school routine.
“A successful school radiates positive energy and a culture of continued growth for both students and staff,” says Susie Schultz, instructional coach at Eastern Pulaski Elementary. “We recognize that success requires a growth mindset in all that we do.”
A quote from Jim Knight in Schultz’s email signature is a nod toward the vision of helping every student succeed: “When teachers stop learning, so do students.” It references her school’s commitment to creating an environment where students have what they need to succeed, starting with dedicated teachers.
Teachers and support staff in each grade level have time each day to collaborate, and professional development is offered weekly. Teachers are also encouraged to highlight student success, Schultz says, with the Positive Referral program. Individual students are also honored with the ringing of a bell at the front office to celebrate achievement of an individual goal.
Eastern Pulaski Elementary opened in 1976. It combined the operations of Winamac Elementary and Star City Elementary. Five hundred students attend in kindergarten through fifth grade, supported by 35 certified teachers including special education instructors and speech pathologists.
Every day students have access to learning in science, technology, engineering and math, as well as a curriculum that includes art, music, physical education, library time and digital literacy, Schultz says. A new program, Second Steps, was added this year, which starts the week off with a positive lesson that becomes the focus throughout the week.
“On our daily morning announcements, we are featuring a Career of the Day,” Schultz says. “This is a quick teaching tool which exposes our kids to future possibilities for their life.”
Reading is encouraged with the Accelerated Reading program, which builds a love of reading by rewarding successful completion of books with prize incentives. The active Reading with Rita program builds on this by allowing selected students to read to a guide dog that visits the school once per month.
“We believe that building relationships with students is the key to student success,” Schultz says. “Early this year our staff made a commitment to making sure that every student has at least four aces in their corner. These aces are adults who will be present through life’s challenges.”
It isn’t easy for any school to provide for student needs, especially in areas where families struggle financially. Schultz says school leaders have opened doors to the community, and created partnerships that address challenges their students’ families may be facing at home. Through community programs like Blessing Box, students have access to resources that the school cannot provide.
Community partnerships also provide opportunities for out-of-school activities like sports and other hobbies, such as those provided by Junior Achievement, 4-H, and other youth-oriented programs and organizations. Volunteers from the community are welcomed in for mentorship and guest readings, and Four County Counseling Center is assisting in improving the overall mental health of the students.
In the spirit of success, 60 minutes of classroom time are devoted each day to meeting the individual instructional needs of students. This is called WIN, an acronym for What I Need. During this hour students get help with literacy or math, and also take part in enrichment opportunities.
Sometimes the little things matter. Changes in the terminology used on report cards is also part of the formula for the success Eastern Pulaski Elementary strives for, according to Schultz. Instead of receiving a grade for citizenship or work habits, students are instead assessed on their life success skills.
Even changing the school’s outlook on homework is believed to be making a difference according to Schultz. Changing the philosophy of homework allows single-parent households to invest in more family time instead of homework obligations.
“This gives a picture of the whole child and strives to craft students who are productive members of society in the future,” Schultz says.
For more info, visit epulaski.k12.in.us.