Monthly Archives: February 2013

A Disparity in Schools, But Not in GREAT Teachers

In a recent Facebook contest, hosted by K-12 Online, two teachers emerged GREAT as voted on by their students, peers, family and friends. The unlikely paradox is that the winning teachers are from schools of despairing backgrounds.  One of our GREAT teachers is from a high school in Irvine, CA, which is most notably known for being featured as one of the Best Places to Live year-after year and where the median family income is over $107,000 per year[i].  Our other GREAT teacher hails from a Dallas, TX inner-city elementary school where nearly 40% of their population are limited English proficient students and 98% of its student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch, much the contrary from our CA school where only 7% of its students are eligible. [ii]

Although on opposite ends of the spectrum demographically, the missions of these two schools are not as varying.  Both schools strive to provide the highest quality educational experience in an environment that is conducive to learning so that students graduate with the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to become productive and responsible members of society.

And as aligned as the missions are, so are the GREAT teachers representing these schools. Here is what others had to say about these GREAT teachers:


LaShocka Thompson, Roger Q. Mills Elementary, Dallas, TX

“LaShocka is truly a phenomenal, dynamic, and wonderful educator…She’s dedicated and devoted to her job and she motivates her students to do their best and lets them know that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE and there is no limit to education…EDUCATION IS FREEDOM!!! She teaches her students various learning strategies to help them understand their assignments, keeps the parents updated on any event or the student’s progress, and makes sure that the students have fun while learning. Additionally, she has been awarded with numerous school awards because of her DEDICATION & HARD WORK in helping the students succeed in their education and goals in life. LaShocka is what I call ‘A TRUE AND DEVOTED TEACHER’ who is on the road to MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN OUR YOUNG STUDENTS’ LIVES.”

“LaShocka is extremely dedicated and adamant in reaching her pupils. She always gives 110 percent and never lets any obstacles stop her in reaching her goals.”

“Hard work and dedication are what schools are lacking and what LaShocka exemplifies day in and day out. Anything that can improve the learning process for her children she is doing it and more. To see how she loves and cares for her children is to know she loves them as if they are her own… She’s beyond a great teacher, she’s a phenomenal teacher…”

“LaShocka Thompson is dedicated to her students and goes above and beyond to give her students the tools that they will need to be successful in school and in their lives!”

“LaShocka Thompson is one of the few teachers that I can say loves what she does. When you find a teacher who’s caring, understanding, thoughtful and builds relationships with families, then you’ve found yourself a special teacher. Ms. Thompson is a winner in our book.”

“LaShocka Thompson is a phenomenal educator and exemplifies the qualities of an exceptional teacher. Her dedication to her students is unparalleled and is evident in her dedication to ensuring that all of her students are successful learners!”


Valerie Thompson, University High School, Irvine, CA

“Being a senior in high school, I have met a lot of teachers. I can honestly say none can compare to Valerie Thompson. She is a teacher of chemistry, which can be a very confusing subject to most. She makes every student eager to learn, and I can’ t think of a day I was ever bored in her class. She strives to be her best each day no matter what kind of day she is having. She is an amazing teacher that every kid feels blessed to have. She is more than a teacher though she is a mentor to her students and makes each one feel special in their own way. She gives kids hope for their futures. This teacher has immeasurable compassion, and a complete heart of gold. Valerie Thompson is the best of the best and I have never met a kinder person.”

“When it comes to being a great teacher, Ms. Thompson goes above and beyond this word… No matter what kind of day she is having, she gives it her all… Every office hours, Ms. Thompson’s room is packed as it always is because kids enjoy being in her atmosphere. Also, she helps kids the whole time and even during snack and lunch… Also, when it comes to kids stressing out about high school and getting straight A’s, I truly believe she is the best person to talk to. She teaches kids that getting good grades is a good thing, but it is not the only thing in life… one grade in a high school course does not define who we are as people and what our worth is. I have never met such a compassionate, loving person in my life. She made learning fun for me and many others… she taught me that everyone is special and important, including myself. If any student was having a problem at school or home, she was always there for them when they needed her… She has a complete heart of gold and puts her students before herself. I don’t think greatness as a teacher can truly be measured, but I know that Ms. Thompson has touched the hearts of all her students and I think that is greatness that not many acquire. When I think of Ms. Thompson, this quote describes her to me and others: Most of us have at least one person in our life that inspires us to achieve more than we thought possible. This person encourages us, gives us tools or just plain loves us unconditionally. This person becomes the ‘wind beneath our wings’ in a sense. Everyone needs others to bolster them, especially young people just learning who they are. These people, heroes to many, usually have no idea the hope they inspire in our hearts. They inspire because of who they are, not because they seek the title. -Anonymous.”

“Mrs. Thompson is the reason I go to school every day. Rarely does a teacher care as genuinely for her students as she. I know that without Mrs. Thompson’s love and support, I wouldn’t be where I am today. She resonates strength and beauty, and she has this wonderful way of making everyone feel special. As a teacher, she makes chemistry fun and accessible to all students, many of whom go on to AP Chemistry or college chemistry classes with ease thanks to her class. I’ve learned a lot from Mrs. Thompson both academically and emotionally. She’s an incredibly smart, loving, and beautiful person, and she’s the best teacher I’ve ever had.”

[i] CNN Money September 2011 Issue

[ii] 2008-09

First Impressions Are Lasting Impressions

First impressions are lasting impressions.  It takes just one-tenth of a second for an individual to make a judgment about someone or something and most likely, that first impression will never change.  Making good first impressions is incredibly important because in most cases, you’ll only get one shot at it.

In the case of a school, how can you ensure that you are being judged accurately?  How can you make good first impressions on parents? Successful schools do it all the time. They make themselves distinctive and memorable.

More and more, school choice is becoming a powerful element for parents, students, and teachers.  It is the reason that a parent will travel across town, to a different neighborhood daily, for their child to attend a school outside of their immediate school zone.

So what do successful schools do to create good first impressions and make travel across town compelling enough for parents? Here are a few tips:

Your website is your school’s welcoming center

A school’s website is usually the first thing a visitor sees. A good website is cohesive, informative and easy to navigate. Keep it simple and appealing with a logical flow of information and messaging.  And most importantly, make sure your website is providing timely, up-to-date information.  A schools’ website should reflect the schools strength and character and speak to its audience appropriately.  It must be reliable and load quickly.  Here are some examples of school websites that have an eye-catching homepage and are fun to explore.

Cleveland Metropolitan School District

Durham County Public Schools

Westwood Charter School

Larchmont Charter School

Mt. Carmel High School

Adlai E. Stevenson High School

Your frontline should be a pleasure

There is nothing more frustrating to a potential parent than to call a school for information and hear an unfriendly, unenthusiastic, unknowledgeable voice on the other end. On the phone or in person, your front line staff should be courteous, helpful and if needed, empathetic.  Make an anonymous call to your school’s Admissions Office and see how you are treated. Email the Admissions Office and see how promptly you are answered. Note the quality of the response and if it represents the atmosphere and feel you wish the school to portray?

School tours and visits weigh more than you think

Nothing sways a prospective parent more than a school tour. Your best people should be put on this important part of the public relations process. Make sure your tour guide is extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the school.  Parents like to see students in action.  Plan tours during the time of day that most closely portrays “a day in the life??? of a typical student.  Have examples on hand that show accomplishments, events, or activities that set you apart from other schools.  First impressions ARE important and often lasting. The effort a school puts into the campus tour really does pay off.

Rehearse the entire experience so that you get it right. Take a tour with your designated tour guide with the eye of a parent. When inspecting a school, parents don’t miss a thing and are easily impressed by enthusiasm, knowledge, and courtesy. Ask questions as if you were looking for a school for your own child.

Below are a few parent resources that educate parents on things to look for when visiting a school. Take a look at the list to see if you address these questions during your school tours.

The school visit: What to look for, What to ask

Ask the right questions, Find the right school

Questions to ask before enrolling your child in a new school

Making good first impressions with parents is key 

First impressions count in marketing your school just as much as they do in any endeavor. Are parents spending hours waiting in long lines to register?  Are they required to fill out stacks of paperwork before ever setting foot on your campus?  These types of activities set a negative first impression. No wonder parents aren’t excited about signing up for the PTA, volunteering as room mom, or contributing to your annual fundraiser.   You’ve given them a bad first impressionso for the rest of the school year, they do whatever it takes to stay away.

Not only does an online registration system help increase enrollment and streamline the application and registration process, but it also can portray a stress-free, open, inviting environment for your parents. Are you thinking about online enrollment, applications and registration? Don’t reinvent the wheel!  Learn how others are benefitting from K-12 Online’s secure system.  They’ve worked with many districts, charter, private and independent schools to provide an affordable alternative to paper pushing.

An Open House with welcoming arms

Good first impressions make a big difference! Your first open house or Back-to-School night gives teachers an opportunity to create a personal connection with parents, gain parents’ support, and establish ways for continued communication throughout the school year.

Before deciding what to do for your school’s open house, walk through your school building and classrooms with the eyes of a parent. Pretend you are walking in for the very first time and think about what would make great first impressions.  Do your hallways offer a welcoming presence?  Are your restrooms clean?  Are your classrooms colorful and reflective of students work?

Most parents want to see an organized building/classroom with friendly and welcoming teachers and staff.  They are not typically concerned about how many science tests are given, or what materials you use to teach math.  Parents generally want a good understanding of what their child’s school year will be like, how issues will be communicated and handled by teachers/staff, and what they can do to help ensure their child has a successful school year. Here are some ideas to incorporate into your next open house.

Open house School Ideas

Five Ideas for Open House

Tips for Open House and Back to School Night

60 Ideas for Open House


When it comes to schools, choice is a powerful element that can help create the conditions for a successful school. Families make relocating and home purchasing decisions around which school they want or don’t want their children to attend.  Don’t pass up an opportunity to show your best side.  Put your best foot forward in the beginning so that parents receive authentic first impressions.   What are you doing to make positive first impressions and portray a stress-free, open, inviting environment to your parents?

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