Celebrating Improvement


08/23/2010  |  Larry Biddle

From our humble beginning at Conway High School in South Carolina until now, Jostens Renaissance has continued to focus on the power of teaching and learning across our nation. When Conway High School launched the CHS #1 Program on January 20, 1984, we knew that our quest to create lots of niches for lots of kids would begin to close the recognition gap on our campus. It was simple.  There was an achievement gap because there was a recognition gap! What we needed was an inside-out business approach that centered on our entire school community as the most important business in town.  We knew that we must elevate and appreciate the teaching profession because it drives the future – who and what our students will become. 

As the momentum continued to build, Mike Carroll, our Jostens representative, noticed that CHS was on fire with the inherent power of celebrating each and every student, teacher and staff member.  He lobbied for Jostens to visit the campus.  Almost anyone who has attended a high school in this country has heard of Jostens, purveyor of class rings, yearbooks, diplomas and graduation caps, gowns and hoods. Founded over a hundred years ago, the company endeavors not only to sell its products, but “to help school communities and affiliation groups build and express pride.”  After visiting the school, two Jostens regional managers –Ross Larson from North Carolina and Don Gifford from Arkansas—boldly asked: “Can we teach this to America?”  A revolution was on the way ...

After several brainstorming sessions during the year, Jostens flew in 23 schools from throughout the Southeast—principals and assistant principals and their respective Jostens Reps—to see firsthand how Conway’s #1 Program worked.  At that time we taught 6 basic principles.  Today there are 10 because educators nationwide continue to fine tune the concepts.  A Florida principal remarked, “In the past two days I have realized that these six elements are blinding flashes of the obvious! They are so simple that we missed them!”  All who attended the first historic conference agreed, “It’s not the boardrooms of America that will determine our future in the global economy—it’s our classrooms that will make all of the difference!”

As this proven educational enrichment program developed over the past 20 years, Jostens Renaissance has been tested, refined and customized in thousands of school across North America with amazing results.  Grades and test scores go up.  Tardiness goes down. Graduation rates improve.  And morale goes through the roof ... the WOW factor!  These concepts empower teachers and students with the uplifting energy of rewards and accolades to inspire underachieving students – and overworked staff.  It’s free.  It’s customizable.  And it works.  “For years I thought I was the only one who thought that there was more to education than what I was experiencing.  I knew that students and staff needed more but I didn’t know what it was.  Then Jostens Renaissance came to the rescue,” declared a principal from New Jersey.

You can make a powerful, positive difference in your school – starting now.  Think about it.  Who receives the most recognition in your school?  Your top athletes?  Absolutely.  Your top scholars?  Definitely.  These achievers enjoy honors, awards and accolades on a regular basis.  And rightly so!  Even those students with recurring discipline problems receive plenty of attention.  But what about everyone else?  Think about the students who walk down the halls daily, unrecognized, and practically anonymous.  How would their lives change – how would your school change – if they were given a chance to be in the spotlight?  You can boost your school’s academics with the excitement, appreciation and energy traditionally reserved for athletics.   A high school student in Washington remarked, “To me, Renaissance is recognizing that one student who sits next to me in fourth period that nobody really knows.”

Over the last 20 years, individual schools have developed proven ideas that recognize and celebrate hardworking, deserving faculty and staff. (In Renaissance-speak, we call that “staffulty.”) This recognition allows your school to open the Jostens Renaissance umbrella wide enough to encompass staffulty, as well as students.  One of the easiest ways to enhance a staff’s professional image is to provide professional business cards for them.  “As an educator of 25 years, I was ready to ‘retire’ because I no longer felt effective in my job.  JostensRenaissance has ‘restored’ my sense of purpose and my dignity.  This philosophy is something I live each day on our campus.  It has changed my life,” proclaimed a Social Studies teacher.

One of the most successful Jostens Renaissance schools began its journey with an examination of the school lobby.  The first thing people saw upon entering the building was a cluttered trophy case.  Trophies were missing parts. Others had fallen over.  And there were even dust and cobwebs.  Having realized this was not the message he wanted guests to receive when they visited the school, the principal took the first step and cleared the trophy case and replaced it with a display of student academic achievement.  His school was about teaching and learning, not old relics of long-gone athletes.  It was a powerful exercise because it changed the perception of all who entered the school. 

At your school:

  • What are the first three things visitors see in your lobby?
  • What do these say about your school?
  • What do you want your lobby to convey about your school?
  • What needs to be changed or enhanced to deliver the message of teaching and learning?

From the beginning, Jostens Renaissance has been a dynamic process that continues to withstand the test of time because it has always been an “inside-out “approach, spearheaded by leading educators across the US and Canada.  A California middle school mother wrote: “Renaissance made Brandon’s year.  He has had so many positive experiences, done so many things he would not have otherwise done, because of the Renaissance class.  He learned to work with others in small groups and was held accountable for his actions. He has learned the importance of setting an example for other students.”

The vision and mission have developed within the schoolhouse, becoming a systems approach to the myriad challenges that face our entire school community.  Another parent of a middle school student, diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, spoke of her son’s Renaissance experience: “I know that without Renaissance,  Jared’s eighth grade year would have been completely destroyed.  With the Renaissance class supporting him, he was able to make it through treatment with the knowledge that he had friends that cared for him, who were constantly rooting for him to recover.  I believe the success he is experiencing in high school, in terms of both his grades and his continuing volunteer experience can be traced to the Renaissance Leadership Class.”

The Ten Essential Elements have become vital for a school to achieve optimal school-wide results.  These tenets must be actively incorporated into the everyday operation of the school:

Excellence for all stakeholders

Recognizing each and every student for achievement as well as continuous improvement, rather than focusing only on the top few achievers.

The Guarantee

Insuring that all teachers have the right to teach and all students have the right to learn, by focusing on talents, attitudes, skills, knowledge and style.


Tracking more frequent academic improvement, as well as attendance, grades and behavior.

The Four Images

Traditions, Extracurricular Activities, Athletics and Arts and Academics.


 Incorporating recognition that is “visible, tangible and walk-aroundable,” that reaches far beyond certificates and plaques.

Edification of Students, “Staffulty”, Parents and Community

Honoring and appreciating everyone for improvement, excellence, help and encouragement.

Celebrations, Rituals and Ceremonies

Designing events that recognize students and staffulty achievements with creativity, enthusiasm and tradition.

Character Development and Jostens Renaissance Leadership Class

 Strengthening character in your whole community: family, faith community, schools, workplace, government, law enforcement and media.  Aligning the principles of Renaissance with school-wide goals, allowing students and educators the opportunity to work together for a common cause – student success.

Partnerships and Coalitions

Encouraging business and community commitment to build and support Jostens Renaissance; Jostens Renaissance school leadership teams within a state or region coming together for support, information and ideas.

Alumni and Foundations

Utilizing untapped resources of a school for many different types of support; 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt educational and/or athletic foundations as funding sources that support the Jostens Renaissance initiatives within a school.

Each of the Ten Essential Elements is powered and optimized by the Five Rs:

  • Respect
  • Recognize
  •  Reward
  • Reinforce for Results

What you celebrate each day is what you value on your campus.

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