This month’s National Renaissance Staffulty of the Month is Allison Raney from The Independent School in Wichita, Kansas. Nominator Deborah Johnson raves about the impact Allison and Renaissance have had on their school’s culture:
“In fall of 2017, Allison Raney embarked on a mission to improve the lives of our students. As the Dean of Students at our school she works first hand with students who have challenging behaviors and struggle with finding success. Allison developed relationships with these students and discovered that many of our students felt alone, adrift and unconnected. Even though they were coming to school, they did not feel like they were a part of the culture and did not even feel like they had a support group of friends or adults. Allison attended the Find Your Grind Tour in Kansas City in fall of 2017 and it lit a spark. She begin the process of setting up a Renaissance Program at our school. Her commitment to creating an engaging and successful program lead her to a day in Erie, Kansas working with Steve Woolf on kicking this important program off. Needless to say, we have used a ton of Steve’s advice at our school. Allison appealed to school families and administration and attended the Jostens Renaissance National Conference in the summer of 2018 with six students. Her exposure to Renaissance values continued to convince her that Renaissance could successfully reach those students who felt adrift. With her continued dedication to making this first year of Renaissance successful she kicked off a Renaissance class with over 20 students joining her at 7:15 am (if you know teenagers this is early for them). Our school is now at the end of the first semester and more students want to join Renaissance class! Allison has successfully supported our Renaissance students in a first day of school rally, spirit days, scavenger hunts, high five Fridays, and a really great Say Goodbye with Pie day. We have heard from many parents that they are seeing an amazing shift in our school happiness and more important our students are engaging with each other and supporting each other. We didn’t know that we needed this so badly but thanks to her and her quest to improve the school climate and culture, we are all feeling excited to be a part of this Renaissance movement. Allison is planning a “Welcome back to school” beach party (in the school gym) to kick off second semester and I have never heard students so excited about coming back to school after the winter break! Allison deserves to be recognized for being such a support to our students and for bringing Renaissance to our school.”
What’s a favorite Renaissance moment for you?
This is our first year implementing Renaissance so it’s new for everyone. We were about 2 months into the school year when a student enthusiastically came bounding into my office and said, “How can I be a part of Renaissance? I have to be a part of this because it’s making a huge difference for our school.” I told her that she is welcome to join but it was too late in the semester for her to receive credit. She responded with, “I don’t care if I get credit, I just want to help change the school for the better.”
How has Renaissance impacted your school’s culture?
Our students have shared with us that this school year has been more positive and uplifting. Within our Renaissance class we have seen tremendous growth in their development as empathetic leaders. Part of my job as Dean of Students is dealing with discipline issues. Since implementing Renaissance it has been so encouraging to watch many of our students develop confidence and take responsibility for their own decisions. Our ultimate goal at Independent is that every student would feel valued which we know drives better performance in and out of the classroom. We are beginning to see that impact in our community.
How has Renaissance affected you personally?
Travis Feil, our amazing Jostens Yearbook adviser, connected our school with the Renaissance philosophy. He also spoke with our faculty about the importance of working in a positive environment and filling our buckets. Renaissance is that avenue for me as it brings me much joy! Despite the challenges that I may face from day to day, this is what fills my bucket and keeps me charged.
What advice would you give to someone just starting with Renaissance?
Three things: First, find a great co-worker to walk this journey with you. Change is never easy and to have a partner to encourage you through the process can make all the difference. Second, don’t worry about a plan, just start. You will figure out what works and what doesn’t as you go. Third, let the students drive the program. They know what their school needs so allow them the freedom to choose the direction.
Allison will receive a shirt and a lapel pin, and was entered into a drawing for free registration to this year’s Jostens Renaissance National Conference.
To nominate someone in your school for the National Renaissance Staffulty of the Month honor, click here.