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The Sippel ES House has rooms for everyone
Come visit Sippel Elementary School on a Friday morning and you’ll be greeted by an combustible mix of colors, passion and unity that is creating an explosion of academic and healthy social-emotional growth, thanks in large part to the Ron Clark Academy House System.
The House System, inspired by the Academy located in Atlanta, was instituted at Sippel ES during the 2019-2020 school year, and is giving students the opportunity to connect with classmates across grade levels and with students they may not ordinarily cross paths with, reflecting the school’s diversity, encompassing race, ethnicity and academic standing.
Melissa Dean brought it to Sippel ES to share with her fourth grade students and fellow teachers on her grade level. The COVID pandemic stood no chance against the House System.
“She would do these House games on Friday via Zoom,” explained Clarie Bristow, Sippel ES principal. “They would be in their colors, and it caught on like wildfire. We decided to implement it campus-wide the following year.” Last August, Schertz Elementary School became the second SCUC campus to incorporate the House System.
This program has four houses, each representing different characteristics and sporting its individual color. Each House has unique properties such as its own color, symbols, nation of heritage and history.
“Reveur” is the “House of Dreamers,”as the word in French for “dreamers” or “idealists”, and wears blue as its identifying hue. “Altruismo” is Portuguese for “the givers,” and thus, it is known as the “House of Givers.” Altruismo members sport black colors. Amistad is the “House of Friendship,” as it is the Spanish word for “friendship,” and uses red to distinguish itself from the other houses. Isibindi is the “House of Courage,” the Zulu word for the trait, and House members can be spotted with the green tint on the clothing.
Students will work to earn “house points” by demonstrating positive attitudes, teamwork, and other qualities of good citizenship. Competition between houses encourages stronger relationships between adults and students, and all houses are expected to win humbly and lose gracefully, inspiring students to achieve excellence in all they do.
“We say ‘Four Houses, One Family’ here,” said Dean, who is part of the Reveur House. “We have an unspoken rule that nobody puts down another house. We have friendly rivalries but we never disparage another house. It’s created a family culture among students, parents and teachers.”
That atmosphere created by the House System harmonizes with the new SCUC Strategic Plan, which includes an effort to promote social opportunities for student and staff engagement. Witness Avery, a fourth grade student and a member of the House of Reveur, who read aloud to Ms. Bristow about the House System emphatically agrees that it is working.
“In the beginning I was so scared of school,” she said. “But as soon as I stepped inside I felt something. Some sort of joy! The Blue House opened its arms and love filled my heart.”
Classmate Kylie Corbett, a new student at Sippel ES and originally from Florida, desperately wanted to be part of House of Amistad. But she was sorted into the House of Isibindi, and has worked to internalize its key characteristic of courage.
“It’s hard to explain but being courageous is important,” she said. “You need to be brave and face new things and meet new friends. And then I met my new best friend.”
Lumari Padilla, Casa de Amistad member, concurs. “You feel closer to people in your house but other students as well,” she said. “If someone’s not having a good day, I try to help them. I didn’t know how to do it before but now it’s second nature.”
While inclusion and student-staff engagement are a byproduct of the House System, service is an expectation. Padilla, is spearheading a stuffed animal drive to donate to St Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. “The boxes are full of toys and books and stuffed animals,” she said. “One kid just donated a brand new toy in the box.“
Handwritten student testimonials attest to the impact of the House System at Sippel Elementary School that has fostered a sense of camaraderie and accountability for all. “It means I truly am a part of a school family,” wrote one student. Another unsigned letter seems to have crystallized the multiplying force for good. “The House System means to me that it reminds people to have courage, dream, be friendly, and give to people.”
PHOTOS (Courtesy of Candice Ridge)