Butner-Stem Middle School celebrated Kindness Week recently by sending ValenKIND messages to each other. Students and staff completed 368 ValenKIND messages, according to information from the school and from Dr. Stan Winborne, Granville County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Operations & Human Resources and public information officer.
Each ValenKIND contained a message of kindness and support that were sent to students, and was one way to support students while they are learning remotely.
“It was really fun to play cupid this month and spread a little cheer. It was touching to see the kind messages students wrote to each other and their teachers,” said Raisse Ward, a BSMS guidance counselor. It’s really obvious that we have built strong relationships with our students,” Ward said.
Jan Leiner, Career Technical Education (CTE) teacher at the middle school, said she received several ValenKIND messages from students and colleagues, and she said she especially appreciated the expressions of support as a way to offset the stress of remote learning and teaching. Students and staff were able to create a valentine like pictures with personal messages to another person, Leiner explained. “Each day I would find a new post and it warmed my heart to receive such kind and wonderful posts,” she said.
The kindness activity is one example of efforts that BSMS has undertaken as part of a school-wide effort to meet student needs during the school year. Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) programs, including the ValenKIND activity, as well as another program to help teachers build relationships with their students.
Teachers lead Restorative Practices activities and Second Step lessons for 20 minutes each weekday as a way to help them get to know their students.
Apryl Holbert, 8th grade math teacher, said she enjoys Morning Meetings, “Morning Meetings are a great way to get to know my students, especially while we are virtual! I love that they will be open and share their opinions. It is really cool to see that I have things in common with middle schoolers and it gives me insight on how to keep them interested in my class!”
The BSMS campus also gets visits from a therapy dog named Riley as part of the SEL program. Riley is a therapy dog with PetPalsNC and visited the school each week before students moved to remote learning. During the pandemic, Riley, with the help of his human partner Cathy Allen, sends the students weekly updates on what he’s been up to. Allen is a retired teacher with Granville County Public Schools.
Camirra Williamson reads his letters weekly. Williamson is a Project Lead the Way teacher at BSMS and said she enjoys reading the letter. “They are like a nice pick-me-up during this quarantine and winter weather! His little stories are cute and fun,” she added.
Until students can return to in-person learning, Riley visits virtually with students. Bradley Bullock, a student in Christeanna Friend’s 6th grade English Language Arts class, said “I like that he is always adorable and makes me feel happy and calm.”
A therapy dog is a dog that has completed training and assessments and receives a certification to work as a team with its handler to help children and adults.
Riley visits groups of students and enjoys the company of some students in individual sessions. Students have learned about how to care for a dog and they enjoy reading to him.