My Renaissance Story: Rhett Ladner, Mississippi

Opening Doors While Opening Minds

Folks get into education a variety of ways. For Rhett Ladner, he found his opening through coaching.

“I got into coaching so I could teach,” Ladner said. “Coaching and teaching have a very similar mentality, and I wanted to make an impact on young lives. You want kids to feel like they’re part of something special.”

For the three decades that Ladner has been in education, more than 20 of them have been as an administrator. Throughout his tenure at Beaumont Middle School, and as he transitioned to principal at Mississippi Gulf Coast High School, he observed numerous opportunities for growth and change. In particular, there was room to improve both student performance and teacher recognition.

Ladner felt a sense of frustration because he was not sure how to address the problems he saw.

He identified the same gaps even after earning Administrator of the Year accolades three times. Fortunately, a Jostens Rep convinced him to check out the Jostens Renaissance National Conference (now called Jostens Renaissance Global Conference).

At first, Ladner attended the conference with one eye always on the exit—interested, yet skeptical at the same time.

“My thought process was that we’d watch the first few morning sessions, eat lunch, and then sneak out for the rest of the day,” Ladner said. He never expected his skepticism to turn into enthusiasm within a couple of hours, but that’s exactly what happened.

“It was what I’d been searching for my whole career as an educator,” says Ladner. He left the conference with a sense of joy and happiness—and a renewed passion for education.

Emphasizing Recognition

What matters most, he found, is providing tangible recognition for both students and teachers. That recognition fosters an environment of like-minded educators, an emphasis on best practices, and improved student performance. In turn, when students and faculty alike feel appreciated and valued, school culture improves.

Several schools across the country have shown evidence that recognition works as a motivational tool. Take these, for example:

Hancock High School – Missouri

Before using Renaissance Education, Hancock was a C-rated school with upwards of 1,000 office referrals and student discipline instances per week.

    • After five years of implementing Renaissance Education, office referrals dropped to just 700 per year, elevating it to the #2 high school in the state.
    • Student performance improved and attendance increased.

Renaissance Education helped the school to tackle systemic problems in a way that felt personalized to the people impacted by it. A specific example was a student named Michelle, a student who was on her way to becoming a dropout, but—thanks to the recognition the faculty had for her – she was counseled, encouraged, and ended up walking across the stage as a graduate.

Vancleave Middle School – Missouri

Prior to Renaissance Education, Vancleave was a C-rated school with the state’s worst attendance rate. School administrators found that Mondays had the lowest attendance, with little improvement throughout the week.

    • After four years of utilizing Renaissance Education, attendance increased by more than 50% and the school was elevated to an A-rated school.

Implementing Renaissance Education tactics like “Free Dress Day,” “Bulldog (school mascot) Bashes,” and recognizing A- and B-Honor Roll students noticeably improved school culture.

 

We Becomes Bigger than Me

Like students, teachers want to feel valued and respected. They’re investing their hearts into impacting student lives and student performance. Many educators experience a feeling of defeat if their efforts are not acknowledged. Renaissance Education offers ideas and resources to recognize efforts by both students and teachers, creating a supportive atmosphere in which everyone feels like they are pulling together to achieve a common goal.

Renaissance Education helps establish a culture and climate that leads to success. Recognition is part of the formula and when students and teachers feel recognized, they’re willing to invest more of themselves in the effort.

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