Building skills that will prepare them for Upper School and beyond, Grade 8 Impact Design Lab (IDL) students were given the option to design solutions for one of three opportunities that would enhance the Middle School experience.

  1. How might we (HMW) help a teacher who is coming back from surgery to navigate the Middle School?
  2. HMW create a better sense of belonging for Middle School students during lunch?
  3. HMW appreciate our Middle School teachers?

In groups of two to four, each student voted on which question they were most interested in studying. Overwhelmingly, half of the groups chose to dive into teacher appreciation.

Johnny Nordstrom explained his group’s first steps, “We designed ten questions about what teachers liked, how they felt appreciated, and what could be improved.” Johnny’s group and others prepared questions like the ones below.

  • Do you feel appreciated and why?
  • How can we show respect?
  • What gifts have they received in the past?
  • What is an example of a time that you felt the most appreciated?
  • Do you prefer a gift or an experience?
  • What is the ideal gift?
  • Should there be teacher appreciation assemblies?
  • Should there be a teacher appreciation national holiday?

After approval, each group chose two to eight teachers to interview. Bobby Bastek, Grant Reynolds, and Graham Schwalb interviewed Grade 8 Math Teacher Ms. Saira Panjwani.

Their questions based on the feedback they received, getting more specific over time and narrowing in on viable options for possible solutions.

Among the teachers Audrey Brown, Caroline Parker, and Leighton Scott’s group interviewed, was Ms. Kristen Pisacreta, Grade 8 Humanities Teacher. Leighton explained, “Ms. Pisacreta said her favorite gifts were personal cards. Then when we interviewed Mr. Welch we asked him what we should write on the personal cards.” The group discovered that personal cards outlining experiences from the year and how their class has shaped them as people were impactful and reminded teachers why they chose their profession.

Audrey, Caroline, and Leighton also wanted to explore ways to make sure all teachers felt included in teacher appreciation. Caroline said, “We thought of this google form to send out to the students to pick teachers they would give cards to so every teacher would get a card and no one was left out. To test it, we sent the form to 25 students. Only a few replied but we are confident that if we had a little more time to plan and tell people about it, it would have worked.”

In IDL, each student has a Design Lab Journal in which they record their final findings and evidence. Johnny explained, “We recorded our interviews and attached pictures of our notes. I think we all came to the same conclusion that teachers liked personal notes and experiences over a gift card or impersonal gift.” The students that chose this project used their findings to plan what they would give their teachers before the holiday break. Leighton was excited to give her gifts this year, “I gave my teachers little cards where I wrote my favorite memory for the class and how much I appreciate all the work they do. It definitely meant more to me to be able to give them that and I think they appreciated it more too.”

Interested in seeing some of the processes? Watch two interviews below.