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Amazing Shake Club builds communication moxie at Heritage

MADISON – In the Amazing Shake Club at Heritage Elementary School, students are gaining confidence and interpersonal skills to nurture meaningful, everyday relationships.

Heritage third-grade teacher Kara Lawrence and fifth-grade math teacher Heather Kell sponsored an Amazing Shake Club for students in grades 3-5. Fifth-graders only can enter school competition to send representatives to nationals.

The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Ga. created Amazing Shake to allow students to develop professional qualities — from a proper handshake’s mechanics to ‘working the room’ to present themselves positively, Lawrence said.

“Heritage is a Leader in Me school. We focus efforts on teaching students that everyone can be a leader and providing practical learning experiences to help them discover their leadership potential,” Principal Dr. Georgina Nelson said.

“The Amazing Shake Club is just one of the many such experiences we offer to our students (in clubs). They build their repertoire of soft skills, such as eye contact, engaging adults and new friends in conversation, greeting visitors and shaking hands,” Nelson said. The club fits Heritage’s mission statement “to prepare our students to reach high to achieve our goals, appreciate others, model the habits of a leader and serve our school and community.”

Club members meet every other Friday during school hours. Mill Creek and Rainbow elementary schools also offer Amazing Shake.

During recent judging, student standouts handled themselves under pressure by giving a dinner toast and a basketball pep talk with only 10-minutes notice. “Every curve ball we threw at them, they had to begin with an end in mind while winning over judges with their charisma and professionalism,” Kell said.

Lawrence believes today’s youth can use ‘good manners.’ “It needs to be explicitly taught,” she said. She uses Ron Clark material to teach life skills, such as covering your mouth for a cough and saying ‘Yes, ma’am’ (or sir) and ‘Thank you.’ Her students know that showing respect is a part of their job.

Nelson agrees that soft skills must be taught and modeled at home, school and community. Because of increased (online) screen time, children struggle with engaging with others and presenting themselves.

Judges included Pam Flory, Madison County Deputy HR Director; Paige Bibbee, Decatur City Council President; Dwayne Starling, Lead Sustainment Engineer, Raytheon; Leah Sketo, HR Senior Manager, Lockheed Martin; Patrick Nelson, Attorney, Senior Legal Advisor, PEO Aviation; Farhad Qayum, Best Buy Store Manager; Lee Marker, Athens firefighter; Jeremiah House, Surgical Sales, Stryker; and Mayor Paul Finley.

“It was an awesome opportunity for our students to meet these community leaders and interact with them,” Nelson said.

Heritage students Antonio Deganis, Aubrey Kolenich, Brennan Ragsdale and Lucy Romanoff will enter national competition in Atlanta, Ga. on April 17-19.

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