Isom is filled with HERO students. They get seen in the classroom, in the hallways, on the playground and in the lunchroom. Everywhere you turn, there’s a HERO.
The HERO program, an acronym for Helpful, Empathetic, Respectful and Obedient, started years ago at Isom, a way to teach and model quality character traits. HERO has grown and turned into a schoolwide theme that has raised expectations across the building on how students treat each other and interact with others in the school.
“We know that kids are happy, can focus and learn more when they feel they belong, they matter, they are safe and that we value them,” says Jen Vachon, Isom dean of students. “Regardless of how well a student is doing academically, this program allows us to connect with and acknowledge students for their character traits that are also so important. Being a helpful, empathetic, respectful and obedient person is a huge part of what will help make them successful as they continue to grow and learn.”
With nearly every behavior fitting under the HERO attributes, all staff can hand out HERO tickets signifying the positive behavior. Staff do this whenever they see a HERO characteristic displayed, whether in the class or outside the class. The tickets then get put into a drawing every Monday for a prize and the ticket recipients get written on the wall in the hallway. Students also bring a ticket home to show their families.
Each month Isom puts a focus on one of the attributes, inviting students to write down examples and hang those in the hallway. Some of those student-led examples get highlighted during morning announcements and help reinforce student behavior. Vachon also creates videos of students showing what it means to be an Isom HERO. “The students love seeing themselves in these videos and they are modeling the behaviors we want to see daily,” she says.
Staff recognition plays heavily into the HERO program. Along with the passing out of tickets and constant reinforcement of the program, teachers choose a HERO Award recipient from their class each month. Those students are recognized across the entire school.
With the HERO characteristics a constant focus at Isom, Vachon says the school is a place where people are kind to each other and focus on respect. Student discipline gets handled within this culture, allowing students to be honest about mistakes and understand how their actions don’t meet with expectations. “Everyone makes mistakes, I say this to students all the time,” she says. “Our goal is to think about our choices, how it impacts others, how we can make up for that and what we can do in the future to not make some of the same mistakes over and over.”
Vachon says that this focus on positive behavior has meant that 95% of Isom students, on average per trimester, are meeting expectations.
“Our students love our HERO program,” Vachon says. “They love to be recognized in front of the staff and their peers. We see students who intentionally strive to receive a HERO ticket and the HERO Award. We see their excitement when they get acknowledged and get to go home and tell their parents about it. But probably the best part is that the students are genuinely happy for each other when one of their peers gets a HERO Award. The excitement they have for each other is priceless and we love that they are learning to support each other and root for each other.”