Lisa Lee 

Contributing Writer 

(Photo by Lisa Lee – Viking Bucks winners: Back row: Ty Carlton, Chris Hicks, Da’Marion Hicks, Jordan Caudill, Mackenzie Harris. Front Row: Thomas Bisset, Doughlas Stillwagon, Lalyana Bustillos and Kelsey Stiver.)

Potterville High School staff and students are upping their focus on positive behavior thanks to the help of local businesses and the leadership from school behavioralist, Jessica Leopold, and teacher, Selena Bliesener.  The school has been using a program called Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) for a while, but Mrs. Leopold wanted to recharge the program to see if it could improve certain behavior trends, such as peer to peer interactions and peer to staff interactions.  Mrs. Bliesener sent 100 letters to local business asking for donations of funds or prizes that could be given to students that are caught exceling in the PBIS target areas.   

The new phase of the program was kicked off in January, and Mrs. Bliesener reports seeing marked improvements in student behavior. The improvements include simple acts of kindness such as holding a door open for someone, using “Please” and “Thank you,” and greeting people to make everyone feel valued.  She said that when the students take time to notice and extend a simple kindness, the positive energy, or joy, is felt throughout the schools.  Students are more relaxed and feel more comfortable being in school. When this happens, tardies go down, office referrals are reduced and there is less stress in the school, and with less stress, the school is a more positive learning environment. 

Here is how PBIS works: the student handbook explains the behavior objectives and gives specific examples of those expectations, which are broken down into five categories: Positivity, Respect, Integrity, Determination and Empathy.  The first letter of each category forms the acronym PRIDE. Students who are randomly caught fulfilling the PRIDE expectations are given a PRIDE card, which is marked for which expectation they were exhibiting, thus giving them immediate positive feedback for the good thing they were just caught doing.   The students turn in their cards each week and a drawing is held for each of the four grade levels at the high school.  Winning students get to pick a prize from the community-filled donation cart, or to pick an in-school prize such as getting a pass to be first in the lunch line. Bimonthly events and activities are created for students that actively participate in the PRIDE program. Recently, they held a dance to celebrate students earning PRIDE cards.