Monthly Archives: May 2014

    • Academic Awards - School Contests and Achievement

      Another school year is coming to a close, with the anticipation of lazy summer days ahead.  Now is the time to recognize learning and leadership excellence at your school for the past year.  What awards will you be giving to your students?  How much can you spend on the awards?  Here are some tips and ideas for school academic awards;  we have seen many come through our doors for the past 20+ years.

      I split academic awards into two categories:  Contests and Achievement.

      School Contests

      Tigers Mascot Trophies Tiger resin trophies for this school's "Paws Reading Club"- one for each grade level winner. The engraving says "Top Tiger Readers" - so cute!

      Common contests we see include Spelling Bees, Science Fairs, Reflections, Eager Reader, and Field Day.  Below are ideas for awards.

      Certificates:  These work for any contest and any budget.  Just design and print on your computer.  Easy and inexpensive!

      Ribbons:  Relatively inexpensive and fun.  You can customize these to your school colors and print them with your event info.  Ribbons make great participation awards for your Reflections Art Contest, Science Fair and Field Day. However, ribbons do require additional time to produce; order at least 3 weeks before your event for customization; stock ribbon orders need less time.

      Trophies: Theme trophies exist for many events, such as spelling bees and science fairs.  Also, mascot resin trophies are a popular choice for Eager Reader winners and Field Day.

      Medals:  A variation on trophies, scholastic medals are inexpensive and easy to store at home.  They are great for events where you have a first, second or third place winner.  We have many medals with inserts for science fair, spelling bee, and school mascots, or design your own!

      Achievement Awards

      Many schools have awards for Graduation, Students of the Month, Students of the Quarter, outstanding attendance, scholarship winners, etc.  What do you give these students to honor them for their achievement?  Depending on the age of the student, I would recommend different awards.  Below are our most popular.


      For Preschool, Kindergarten and Elementary Schools:  The most popular type of academic award for younger students is a Lamp of Learning.  These come in many different shapes and styles, depending on your need and budget.  Resin mascot trophies, especially bobble heads, are also popular with younger kids.

      An example of a school themed plaque, popular for middle and high school scholastic achievement (and sports).

      For Middle and High Schools: The most popular academic awards for older students are school plaques.  Using metal in school colors, these plaques usually have the school mascot engraved on top with the winner's name, achievement and date below.  These are popular for Students of the Month, Citizen of the Year, Class Officers, and other larger scholastic and leadership achievements.

      School Assemblies

      In addition to awards, many schools host an assembly to honor students.  This peer recognition is just as, if not more, important than the tangible award.

      School Newsletter

      Many schools publish the names of their award winners in the school or district publication.  This can be online, in an Eblast, or in a hard copy newsletter. For larger community awards, such as scholarships or national recognition, students may be published in the local community newspaper as well.

      I hope this gives you some ideas of how to award academic achievement.  Here's to another great school year! Wishing you a relaxing summer, full of fun!

      Cheers, Jessica

    • Preparing for Dance Competitions

      For the past couple of years, I've the honor of being a “Dance Mom”.  My daughter Audrey was on a competitive dance team for two years and my daughter Brenna competed in Highland Games and Scottish Dance Competitions.  I'm sharing what I learned hoping that new dance moms and their kiddos have a positive experience, no matter what kind of dance they do.  Here are my tips for preparing for a Dance Competition or really any dance performance, such as a dance recital or dance convention.

      Getting Organized

      The first step in preparing for the competition happens BEFORE the event.  It requires getting organized to figure out what you need, and then packing it all up so you can find it in backstage chaos.

      A List of What to Bring:  This is the first step to getting organized.  Dance teachers or other leaders put together the list of what to bring to the event and then pass it out at the practice before the competition.

      Costume:  Each costume gets labeled with my daughter’s name and all pieces of the costume are placed together.  For smaller items, such as hair accessories, jewelry, or gloves, I put them together in a plastic Ziploc bag with the dance name written on the outside.  I use a hole punch to make a hole in the bag, and then slip it over the hanger of the costume.  I label everything with white fabric tape and a sharpie in case stuff gets mixed up with other girls.

      Tights and Shoes:  We had an extra set of each kind of tights, in case of a run.  Shoes were labeled and placed with costumes.

      Makeup:  For Audrey, her studio required very specific stage makeup, including training of how, where, and what colors to apply.  I practiced applying makeup on her, especially false eyelashes, before the first event.  I made sure we had everything we needed in a makeup case, including the instructions of how to apply.

      Hair Supplies:  As with makeup, I had all hair supplies in a case.  Everything we could possibly need was in there!

      Food:  All that dancing makes a kid hungry, so I tried to bring non-messy snacks for the waiting time.  Also, I brought a water bottle for keeping hydrated, and some cash for lunch at the event.  If the competition was hosted at a school or some other place without food, we stopped for sandwiches at Subway on the way.

      Dance Bag:  Many of the other dance moms purchased these awesome duffle-style bags for all of the dance gear.  The bags had wheels like luggage for easy transport, and when you arrived at the competition, the bag had a built in garment rack for hanging costumes. Not only is this great for competitions, but recitals and other performances as well.

      Miscellaneous items:  A sewing kit for mending emergencies, camera for pictures of the performers, and activities to keep girls busy between dances are all things I included in my bag.  Also, emergency safety pins are a must for costume malfunctions!

      Day Before the Event

      Finish your organization. Whatever last minute tasks need to be done, I tried to do the night before.  Packing the costumes, shopping for the snacks, filling the gas tank, all of these tasks I completed the day before so that I didn’t stress the day of the event.

      Eat well and stay hydrated.  Just like any other sport, dancing is an athletic endeavor that requires good fuel for the body.  A healthy meal and lots of water the day before keep the dancer in top shape.

      Early to bed.  Sleep helps the dancer be rested for the long day ahead.  We tried not to plan any evening events the night before a dance competition or convention.

      Day of Event

      Arrive early.  Our dance studio required the dancers to arrive a full two hours before their scheduled performance time.  I think this was a wise idea because of unforeseen events.  For example, bad traffic, a change in dance line-up and other schedule changes can happen and you don’t want your dancer to miss her opportunity to perform!

      Stay Calm. This is a hard one for me.  I get so keyed up getting there, getting my daughter ready, and all the commotion and excitement of the other dancers.  I’m excited for my daughter, and nervous for her performance.  Sometimes as the mom you just have to take a deep breath and let go!

      Enjoy the Dance.  Once on stage, all of the work and commitment of your child pays off.  It’s great to see the confidence that dance gives.  Plus it is just beautiful artistry!  The performance goes by so quickly, but seeing your child onstage makes it all worthwhile.

      While not all dancers compete, most will perform at some point in their dance career.  Even though I wrote this article from the perspective of a dance competition, these tips also work for dance recitals and other performances.  The important thing is to have fun and embrace the joy of dancing!

      Cheers! Jessica

    • 5 Ideas for Teacher Appreciation

      In honor of Teacher Appreciation this week, today's blog discusses ways to honor educators. Next to parents, teachers and other school staff spend the most time with our children each day and have a major impact on our child’s development and intellectual growth.

      Making an Impact

      In 6th grade, I spent a week at Camp Waskowitz, pictured here.  My teacher, Mr. Greer, sparked my love of the outdoors. Photo by Jana Kleitsch. In 6th grade, I spent a week at Camp Waskowitz, pictured here. My teacher, Mr. Greer, sparked my love of the outdoors. Photo by Jana Kleitsch.

      Most of us can think of a teacher who made a tangible difference in our lives. My story is about my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Greer, who introduced me to the outdoors. My parents were not outdoorsy; their idea of roughing it was a hotel without room service! Mr. Greer exposed me to the amazing flora and fauna of Washington State and through him I discovered my love of the enviroment, specifically Marine Biology. This interest blossomed and eventually led me to major in Fisheries at the University of Washington, resulting in my career in environmental work before the birth of my oldest daugther. This dear teacher had a profound impact on the course of my life!

      As adults, we trust teachers to provide guidance, teaching, and care to our most precious resource - our children. Yet how do we show how much we appreciate the time and energy they put forth?

      5 Ideas for Appreciating Teachers and School Staff

      Teachers One of our family's favorite teachers and customers Mrs. Montgomery with the best principal in the world, Mr. Hamasaki!

      There are many, many ways to show teachers, principals, librarians, aids, and other school staff how much you appreciate what they do. Below are a few ideas I have discovered, but I know this is just the tip of the iceburg. Get creative!

      Idea #1: Make something personal. Have your child create a card, a picture, something to put on the teacher's desk or hang on the classroom wall. Bake goodies for the teacher to share in the staff lounge. Giving the teacher something thoughtfully handmade will make their day!

      Idea #2: Small gifts at holiday time and at the end of school.Many parents and students like to give small gifts to their teachers as appreciation, especially at Christmastime and again at the end of the school year. I know that teachers really look forward to and appreciate these gifts.

      When I am the Room Mom, at the end of the year, I ask the parents in my child's class to pool our money together for a gift certificate to our local mall. That way the teacher can buy a larger ticket item for their home or classroom, or maybe have a date night with their spouse! This gift is always appreciated, as the teacher can use in whatever way they want.

      Idea #3: Volunteer at school.Many teachers stay after hours planning lessons, grading papers, and attending meetings in order to keep up with changing student assessments and standards. By volunteering in the classroom, your time spent and tasks accomplished means less work for the teacher. For middle and high schools, consider helping with concessions at games, locker clean-outs, donating school supplies, or chaperoning events.

      Teacher of the Month Macaroni Kid 'Teacher of the Month' for March, Mrs. VonCappeln.

      Idea #4: Nominate your teacher for an award. Consider nominating your favorite or your child's favorite teacher for an award. Many schools have an Outstanding Educator award that they give out each spring. Many local community groups also recognize exceptional teachers. We sponsor two local teacher awards - the Teacher of the Week by Star 101.5 radio station; and Macaroni Kids' Teacher of the Month. If the teacher wins, I guarantee this public recognition will make them feel appreciated!

      Idea #5: Participate in National Teacher Appreciation Week. Every year during the first week in May, we honor our teachers. Most schools take this time to shower their teachers and staff with flowers, goodies, notes, meals, and other gifts. As a parent, I always try to participate in helping with this week. If you are organizing your school's Teacher Appreciation Week activities, the National Education Association has some great ideas. Yes, it’s all crammed into one short week, but the teachers really love it!

      I hope these ideas inspire you to reach out to that special teacher or educator in your life and thank them for the positive impact they make! It really does make a difference!

      Cheers! Jessica

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    Trophies Awards