Students, teachers celebrate positivity

Brandon Drescher leads his eighth-grade advisory group as Pac-Man during  a Packer Pride Celebration Friday at Ellis Middle School. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Brandon Drescher leads his eighth-grade advisory group as Pac-Man during a Packer Pride Celebration Friday at Ellis Middle School. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Students at Ellis Middle School got to  work together and see just how far their teachers were willing to go to have fun and connect everyone during the third year of Packer Pride Celebrations Friday afternoon.

“You figure out what your teacher allows, really,” 14-year-old Renata Vaughn said.

Packer Pride Celebrations are an outgrowth of Positive Behavior Intervention Systems — PBIS — a program being used at several Austin schools meant both to help create a positive and upbeat climate at Ellis as well as act as a celebration for positive behavioral choices at the school. This first celebration allowed students to dress their advisory teachers up and do a poster competition, a skit and various Minute-to-Win-It type tasks.

Renata explained with a laugh that during last year’s competition her class turned her previous advisory teacher, Mr. Thomas Compton, into a princess. This year she was excited to act out a scene from “Super Mario Bros.”

One of the PBIS coaches at Ellis, Elizabeth “Liz” Blinn, said these celebrations, which happen in each quarter, help students and staff come together in a way the classroom usually doesn’t allow for.

“These celebrations are more kind of fun pieces that let them celebrate their positive behavior … and generally to create a good climate,” Blinn said.

The entire school participates in the fun, and the celebrations help staff encourage students to make good decisions. For 14-year-old Trey Martinson, the celebrations have helped him become more comfortable with his peers and himself.

“You’ve got to learn teamwork and to be comfortable with your friends and to be comfortable with yourself,” he said. “Like, this is the first time I’ve actually dressed up in front of people.”

Eighth-grader Blaine Krueger introduces a skit during a Packer Pride Celebration Friday afternoon at Ellis Middle School. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Eighth-grader Blaine Krueger introduces a skit during a Packer Pride Celebration Friday afternoon at Ellis Middle School. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Ellis Middle School students throw candy to their classmates during the school’s Packer Pride Celebration Friday afternoon. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Ellis Middle School students throw candy to their classmates during the school’s Packer Pride Celebration Friday afternoon. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Trey was dressed as Wario, a character in the “Mario” franchise. He chose the character because he thinks it’s a cool character.

“I think he’s like the awesome, epic version of Mario,” he said.

He enjoyed getting to know his peers better last year and said it was one of the best experiences he’s had at Ellis.

“Because we just did everything,” he said. “We had fun, we got to have food and dress up and hang out with our friends all day.”

Blinn said while PBIS is districtwide, the celebrations are unique to Ellis — something they started three years ago and renamed Packer Pride.

“This is a part of the PBIS that we’ve created kind of uniquely to Ellis,” she said.

Blinn said the main goal is to keep positivity going in the school and to really connect students and staff.

“It’s a way for teachers and students to kind of do something together that’s different than academics,” she said. “… And it’s generally just a good way for us all to have a little fun together.”

Anthony Cohenour, 13, had fun last year during the Packer Pride celebration, even though many of his classmates forgot to bring items for the fun. He said he learned many things, among them how to better work with peers.

“Be able to work with people regardless of how you get along with them normally, and to just be able to be efficient,” he said.

The event helped him and his classmates really see how far their teachers were willing to go to have fun and connect with them.

“You figure out what they’re willing to go for,” he said.

Blinn said the general feedback for the celebrations is positive, and she was excited to see what this year brought.

“Students and staff enjoy themselves,” she said. “They’re just kind of a fun thing to do and just a way to keep morale high.”

PBIS has been at Ellis for about six years.

“The main message for kids is that we as their teachers see the good things that they do and we want to celebrate those good decisions,” Blinn said. “And we want to have fun and celebrate with them.”

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