Elementary schools in Pillager and Wadena‐Deer Creek received recognition for creating a positive school culture and helping other schools follow suit by modeling best practices.

Last week, both schools were notified of having achieved designation as Catalyst Demonstration Schools. Not only are Pillager and W-DC the first schools in Region Five to earn this certification, but they're two out of only four schools in the nation to have received the honor.

The Catalyst Approach was developed by national trainers Nancy Burns and Jacki Brickman to support schools in understanding and implementing relationship-driven, equitable practices that support a positive school culture and allow for even more focused work around instruction.

Staff at Pillager and Wadena-Deer Creek began their work around the Catalyst Approach to Classroom Management during the 2014-15 school year.

According to Brickman, Wadena learned about the strategy when a small group of teachers attended the first Catalyst Approach Class offered by Sourcewell during the summer of 2014. Brickman said attendees left inspired to go back and implement non-verbal communication strategies in their classrooms.

Pillager teachers learned of the approach through Catalyst coach and Sourcewell consultant Marilyn McKeehen when working to implement co-teaching strategies schoolwide.

To achieve certification, a school must have:

• 100% of teachers attend ENVoY 7 Gems training.

• Implemented a belief‐based, school‐wide behavior plan.

• 100% of the cafeteria and playground staff attend training, including S.A.F.E. cafeteria and recess strategies, as well as earn certification.

• Created physical environments that are easy to navigate, welcoming and organized.

• Focused work resulting in developing a culture of continuous improvement.

• 80% of paraprofessionals and licensed staff earn management certification in their respective areas.

• At least 20% of teachers working to earn one or more Demonstration Certifications.

According to Sourcewell manager of education solutions Kassidy Rice, Sourcewell has provided funding and support for these, and other, schools over the past five years as part of a comprehensive approach to relationship-driven practices.

The launching class to the schools' work was ENVoY, or Educational Nonverbal Yardsticks, a series of techniques that improve educator- or provider‐to‐child relationships, enhance influence and time‐on‐task and decrease the level of staff burnout.

Rice said the two elementary schools have hosted live classroom visits to educators from the region and beyond for the past three years, modeling to other teachers how the techniques can influence positive behavior in classrooms.

"The Catalyst Demonstration School certification indicates that, not only have they implemented impactful classroom practices, but they have established a positive and collaborative school culture throughout their entire system," Rice said in a news release.

"This is a huge accomplishment that included many steps to ensure their school climate is a positive one," she added. "This certification and process will truly have a positive impact on students' experiences in schools. And each of these communities should also be proud to know they have model schools in their own backyards."

"There is a culture of collaboration and continuous growth around this work at Pillager and Wadena-Deer Creek that lays the foundation for students to be surrounded by educators who understand, nurture, inspire and support them," Brickman shared in an announcement.

Pillager and Wadena-Deer Creek join Eisenhower Elementary in Coon Rapids and Evergreen Park World Cultures Community School in Brooklyn Center in this designation.