Renaissance empowering students, teachers


NEW PARIS — Hundreds of students and staff from 25 different schools across the region came together for the first-ever Jostens Renaissance Student Leadership Conference held at National Trail High School on Wednesday, Feb. 28.

NT High School teacher Roxanne Laird welcomed everyone in attendance. “Today marks a special occasion because we have over 500 students, teachers, advisors, administrators,” she said. “Our shared goal is to provide inspiration and empower each other to make our schools the best they can be. This collective effort wouldn’t be possible without the support of Jostens Renaissance, and we are deeply grateful for the opportunity that National Trail has been given to embark on this transformative journey.”

She introduced Sindi Hoke, National Trail’s Renaissance Advisor for the past 23 years. “But my journey is not just about numbers. It’s a story of passion and dedication and profound admiration for one remarkable individual — Kay Guckian. Kay Guckian was not only a phenomenal teacher, but truly an extraordinary person. Her legacy lives on in the very fabric of our program, and throughout this conference we’ll celebrate the wonderful contribution she made to our community.”

Guckian’s family was presented the Spirit of Service Award in her honor.

“Kay Guckian, affectionately known as Mrs. G to her students, was an unparalleled force of nature, dedicated to enriching the lives of not only the students, but peers and educators alike Mrs. G is the very fabric of the Renaissance Program,” Brit Irvine read for her mother Sindi Hoke who could not present through her tears. “She taught us that it’s cool to care, that every person is a star in their own unique way, and that together, we shine the brightest. In honor of her legacy, the National Trail Renaissance Program will continue to lead with the same joy, passion and unwavering commitment that she showed to each of us, and it is with that in mind that we present to her family the Spirit of Service Award.”

“National Trail Renaissance isn’t just an extracurricular activity. It’s the heartbeat of our school. It’s the new nucleus that binds us all together, guiding everything we do, resonating harmony with the rhythm of our district,” Hoke said. “We believe in the power of participation and the importance of every single student’s voice. I highly encourage every member of our student body to join renaissance and often to explore other clubs, FFA music, sports and whatever ignites your passion.”

Dr. Phil Campbell, a former teacher and member of the Jostens Renaissance education team, emphasized the importance of loving and motivating educators, and shared personal experiences as a father and educator to highlight the significance of fostering creativity and curiosity in children.

“It’s about smiling and waving at the kid that walks across your campus with their eyes down at their feet because they feel like they’re invisible. It’s about sitting and eating lunch with a kid that sits by themselves or they’re not cool enough to sit at somebody else’s table. That’s what Renaissance, that’s what leadership, is all about,” Campbell said.

“This is something that I share with my son on a regular basis. It’s something I share every day that I work with students, and every day that I work with educators, and I want you guys to get this: a test score does not define you. It didn’t define you yesterday, it doesn’t define you today. And it will not define you tomorrow. And don’t let anybody tell you anything any different,” Campbell continued. “To my educators in the room, listen to me, I get it, I understand the pressure that we’re under. Federal legislation, state legislation, sometimes from your own district administration, right? Test scores, test scores, test scores — but hear me when I say this educators, at some point in your career, you have to make a decision: you’re going to teach these tests, or you’re going to teach to the heartof these young people we get to work with every single day.”

He continued, “In my experience, when you start teaching to the heart, those test scores tend to take care of themselves. And to the young people in the room, I’m not saying you just take all these tests, you just go through the motions, and then your name is attached to it. If your name is attached to anything, you pour your heart and soul into it. That’s called having pride in who you are. But I am saying that the results of those tests are not going to dictate the level of success you’re going to have in your lives moving forward.

“My hope, my goal, my plea with every single one of you in this room here right now, is that every day that you wake up, you choose to be a champion, where you use your talents and your skill set and your abilities to empower people around you to be champions as well. That’s what leadership is all about.”

Campbell stressed the importance of valuing and supporting students’ social and emotional well-being, and discussed the significance of empowerment and leadership in education.

During the Renaissance Conference, students broke up into groups for activities where school culture and climate were the focus of the conversation. Students focused on the importance of belonging and highlighted the need for inclusivity, recognizing underappreciated student groups, and small actions which can make a significant difference in creating a positive environment.

According to Jostens officials, Jostens’ Renaissance is a framework for “building a culture where teachers love their job and students thrive in school.”

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on X @emowenjr.

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