Flint, MI— Brownell STEM Academy and Pierce Elementary are among 339 schools across the country to be nominated for Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase, a recognition given to schools that have demonstrated improvement in attendance, academic performance, discipline referrals, and a positive change in school culture. 

“We are honored…I commend the many incredible educators of Flint Community Schools for the continued effort to put scholars first,” Superintendent Anita Steward said. 

Capturing Kids’ Hearts is a Texas-based organization that provides K-12 staff with training and tools to build trusting relationships with students and to create positive classroom environments. 

Debbie Emery, leadership development executive for Capturing Kids’ Hearts, said academic success relies on a culture of “acceptance and safety.” 

“When I say safety, I mean socially as well as physically so that a campus feels safe when you walk on it. It feels open. It feels welcoming…We help teachers understand how [to] create an environment where kids want to come every day,” Emery said. 

Teachers and administrators at Brownell and Pierce have been working with Capturing Kids’ Hearts since 2018.  The process began with a foundational training for teachers. An important part of that was showing teachers how to build “social contracts” with students. 

“The students pull that together with the teacher,” Emery said. “We ask things like, ‘How do you want to be treated by the teacher?’ ‘How do you think the treat teacher wants to be treated by you?’ ‘What are we going to do if there’s conflict?’ And so, we really spend time breaking down those questions.” 

A social contract helps students feel like they are part of creating a classroom environment and clears space for teachers to build healthy, supportive relationships with them, Emery said. 

Schools nominated for the National Showcase have successfully implemented these trainings and processes and have demonstrated, through data as well as student and staff feedback, significant growth.  

The winning schools will awarded a large canvas and banners with the potential for a few surprises, Emery said.

There is no set number of schools that can receive the recognition. Awardees will be announced in April. 

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...