Fired-Up for Learning

By: Todd Martin
Hundreds of elementary school students cheered, chanted and danced together to start the school day. Their teachers encouraged it all. In fact, they participated.
At Maxdale Elementary School in Killeen, the approximately 688 students, along with teachers and other staff got loud during a pep rally Friday aimed at building excitement for learning, showing good character and excelling far beyond the elementary years.
Principal Bobbie Evans directed each grade level to choose a major college conference and each class to pick a university in that conference to adopt for the year.
Ending the third week of the school year, Maxdale students and staff danced, chanted and heard inspiring messages in a rally that would normally be associated with an athletic contest.
“We want to celebrate learning,” Evans said following the event. “We want students to know that learning is fun. It’s cool to learn.”
At several stages of the rally, a leader shouted the phrase “after high school” and students responded “college.”
Second-grade teacher Marlene Kong and her students shared a chant they repeat each day in class. The fired-up students held a Florida State University flag, showing their chosen school.
“This is a day for us to come together and have fun and show how much fun it is to learn,” the teacher explained after the rally. “It’s good for us to relax and enjoy each other and we’re still learning.”
Each morning during “circle time,” Kong and her students talk about expectations for behavior and for learning. Their class is called the Seminoles, the mascot for their chosen university, which is where the teacher’s husband attended. “They love it. I make it fun for them.”
Maxdale Elementary School is beginning a process to join a network called No Excuses University that encourages school leaders to continually share with students the expectation for continuing education.
The school is also scheduling parent university sessions to help parents become ready to prepare children for post-secondary education.
The rally also addressed school climate with student council leaders presenting facts about bullying and leading the school in a pledge associated with the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate program.
“The pep rally was super fun,” said fifth-grader Dalixa Ruiz. “We wanted to let kids know not to bully each other.”
Fifth-grader Abigail Perales said the rally also addressed the importance of learning. “I want to be a teacher,” she said, pointing out that it’s important to understand some careers require formal education beyond high school.
“It was a chance to yell and scream, an opportunity to let out our excitement,” said fourth-grader Lawrenze Wood, who said he wants to go to college when he gets older.
“The rally was really fun,” said fifth-grader Sayuri Fejeran. “We got to dance and talk and teachers did it, too. We also talked about how to stop bullying.”
“I enjoyed the dancing and yelling,” said fifth-grader Tony Chen. “Mostly, we were trying to teach that if you see bullying to tell a teacher. We also want to be prepared for college so when the time comes we will be ready.”