A Simple, yet illuminating THANK YOU

This “simple, yet illuminating” idea comes from Amy Besler, Director of Secondary Education in Elk Grove, California reminding us of the power of a simple THANK YOU.

Prior to Amy’s current role, she was the principal at Bear River High School and did tremendous work on creating great school culture not just on campus, but also within the community.

A little from Amy:


“As principal at Bear River High School, I worked on a weekly basis with a diverse group of students upon building our positive culture. Each week, we would perform some sort of culture-building task based on ideas generated by the group. At one point, we realized that our celebrations (which were many) focused almost exclusively on students and staff and that we rarely did anything to show our appreciation for our families.

To that end, one afternoon, we made general appreciation cards geared toward parents/families and headed to the parking lot near the end of the school day with baskets of treats (cookies, muffins, fruit, etc.). The students approached parents in their vehicles who were waiting to pick up their kids from school and offered their appreciation, a note, and a treat. I hung back at a distance, very much like a parent of young kids on Halloween, prompting them along to approach each door (and reminding them to smile and say “thank you”!).

This experience was simple, yet illuminating.


I was shocked at how skeptical our parents were about the students who were approaching them. They all seemed quite sure the students would be asking for a donation of some kind. Several folks waved the kids away altogether. Many of the parents were reluctant to accept the treat, for fear that the request for a small donation would immediately follow! One gentleman noted, “This is the first time I have ever been approached by Bear River students not asking for money.” That was truly an eye-opening revelation. To keep our programs thriving, we ask and ask and ask of our families and community partners, but how often do we show our gratitude for them in return? In the end, the parents were so thankful (bordering on shocked) and our group realized that we needed to continue to do more to show our families how much we appreciate their support and involvement.”   



What could your campus do to show appreciation for a group on or off campus who does far more than you may ever see? Maybe like Amy’s school is it family members or community members. Or maybe you have them covered and after assessment it could be the custodian, landscaping crew or security guard? No matter who the group may be, we encourage you to take a little time and say THANK YOU. After all… we believe it truly takes all hands on deck to build great school culture!


Do you already host appreciation events or do you plan to try this one out? We would love to have you share your inspiration on our facebook page here or by using #schoolculturebydesign on Twitter.

Elfie Selfie



Looking for a fun and UNEXPECTED idea to leave students talking at the end of the semester? Consider the Elfie Selfie Challenge.

Sarah Burress, the Activities Director from Clovis East High School in California shared the idea they started a few years ago!

A little from Sarah:

“In order to spread holiday cheer, we bought the Clovis East Principals life-sized costumes and they graciously agreed to dress up to be Elves on the Shelf. They started before school by positioning themselves on a roof somewhere, frozen as if they were an Elf on the Shelf. Then, each passing period, they switched locations on campus. In front of them we had info for the Elfie-Selfie Challenge, which had students and staff take their best selfie and submit it to our school’s Remind messaging system. This was a fun way to get students involved and also a quick way to get more students signed up for the Remind (which gives them the daily bulletin, important announcements, etc.).”


When did it happen?

They did it the Friday before Holiday Break. Since the principals were constantly moving locations to make it fun, it took up most of their day.

What types of prizes did they give away?

They gave away 5 total prizes and a few honorable mentions. The prizes were a variety of spirit items (hydro flasks, t-shirts, etc.), as well as a pair of dance tickets. The kids were just excited to have their picture sent over social media as the “winner.”


Our team here at Learning For Living believes that amazing culture is a series of tiny actions sprinkled all throughout the year. This is just one example of how Clovis East is creating a school no one will want to leave!

The question for you: What can your campus do in the next few weeks to leave staff and students talking about your culture?

It could be an Elfie Selfie challenge, hot cocoa for everyone or simply telling someone you are grateful to have them part of the team.


Are you doing something fun or unique at your campus to build great culture? Share it on our School Culture By Design Facebook page today!