The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) encourages schools all over the country to involve families in education. Through the National PTA’s School of Excellence recognition program, local PTAs survey parents to learn about specific needs at their schools and develop projects to address them.
Lehi Junior High and Liberty Hills Elementary in Lehi wereeach recognized as a School of Excellence for 2021-2023 by the National PTA. Approximately 3,000 schools in Utah applied to be a School of Excellence, but only nine schools in the state were chosen.
“We are proud and excited to be recognized as a school of excellence. Last year, we had new school boundaries and a new principal. This was the perfect time to really focus on what the community needed,” explained Amanda Miner, PTSA President at Lehi Junior High.
Based on the thorough survey of LJHS parents, Miner and the rest of the PTSA noticed that parents were looking for more volunteer opportunities at the school. “Instead of focusing on getting volunteers from people showing up to PTSA meetings, we included sign-ups for volunteering in newsletters, making the ability to support teachers and activities easier,” said Miner. “I love being involved with my children, especially as they go through the teenage years. I want all parents to know there is a place for them to be involved too.”
The PTSA at Lehi Junior sponsors the HERD of Fame breakfast, a teacher-nominated recognition of students who embrace the school’s HERD principles. “They are often not the students who are regularly recognized,” said Miner. “The pride I see in the parents as they hear some amazing things about their student always makes my heart happy. It’s a beautiful sight.”
The School of Excellence designation is a two-year program, allowing Lehi Junior High and Liberty Hills to do projects based on the information they learned from the parent surveys.
“We learned from our survey data that we need to focus on being more inclusive and make sure flyers and information are getting home to all the parents, especially Spanish-speaking families,” said Angelee Aedo, PTA President at Liberty Hills.
The PTA and teachers at Liberty Hills also held service projects like making and donating fleece blankets to the Lehi Police Department and donating stuffed animals to the Lehi Fire Department. “We tried to find ways for the students to look outside themselves,” Aedo explained. “We want to live up to being a School of Excellence and come up with more projects this year.”
“The most important thing in this building happens in the classroom, with teachers and their students,” said Matt King, Principal at Lehi Junior High. “We’re focused on being intentional and creating not only connections with students, but moments of learning where the lights come on for the students and they’re getting excited about learning. That’s the most exciting part when teaching and learning are happening. Everything we do is in support of that.”
The PTSA at Lehi Junior High will continue projects that have been successful in the last few years. “We are working on someways to recognize students as they improve their grades. The idea is any student who maintains above a 3.5 or improves from the previous quarter’s GPA will be recognized,” added Amanda Miner. “The student who went from a 2.0 to a 2.1 would receive the same recognition as the student who maintains that honor roll designation. Sometimes we all need someone to recognize our small steps as we become better.”