Nicole Newman, Columbia River Gorge Elementary second grade student, takes a seat in the principal’s chair like she owns the place.  But on Friday, May 14 she did! Newman had earned the prestigious role of Principal of the Day through the school’s Awesome Otter program which recognizes and rewards students’ positive behavior.

“Our Awesome Otter program recognizes students who are being safe, responsible, respectful and kind,” explained CRGE principal Tracey MacLachlan.  “Everyone in the building can hand out coupons for positive behaviors they see.  This includes kitchen staff, recess aids, custodians, teachers, secretaries.  It helps us to all speak the same language and have the same behavior goals for our students.”

Each Wednesday, coupons are tallied so students know their account balance. The points are then spent on rewards from the Awesome Otter Store. Due to the pandemic, many rewards changed to experiences rather than gifts.  Rewards differ by grade level. Examples include using a special writing utensil for the day for 5 points, take a music break is 10 points, for 20 points a student can pick the class’s read aloud book, 50 will allow you to wear PJs to school and for 100 you can each lunch with a school counselor or principal.

“Principal for the Day costs 200 points and is considered a big-ticket item and a very big honor,” said MacLachlan.  “It can take a student years to earn enough points for it.”  Since students were unable to redeem points last year with remote learning, there were more students than usual able to earn this reward. “We have had six so far and we have a few more to get in before the end of the year,” said MacLachlan. “We really want to accommodate our 5th graders before they leave us for middle school.”

As Principal for the Day students received a lanyard badge complete with a photo to wear during their day.  Duties include supervising recess, reading to a younger class, recognition in the hallways by staff, providing help with daily announcements, assisting office staff, and enjoying a special catered lunch from a local restaurant.  Newman’s choice was Chinese Café. “And if time allows, we might even get in a game of Uno at my desk,” said MacLachlan.

Newman chose being Principal for the Day because she felt it would be fun and “I could help with everything and I like to help out,” she said. “I also want to give out Awesome Otters at recess and read to Mrs. Bradford’s kindergarten class.”  Newman chose to read one of her favorite books from home, “Pine and Boof.”

“I earned the points by helping kids, being nice, helping put away lunch trays, being respectful, and raising my hand a lot,” she said.  Her favorite helpful activity was helping return cold lunch bags to classrooms from the cafeteria in the rolling tubs.

Sometimes a classroom will pool their tickets for a class party of pizza or ice cream. “We had a second-grade student choose to use their points for a sundae party in the courtyard for their entire class,” said MacLachlan. “I thought it was fabulous to see a student sharing their reward with their peers in this way.”