Cloverleaf Middle School’s sixth-grade White Tigers team has won the Ohio Middle Level Association’s 2023 Regional Award for Best Middle Level Team. The honor is presented to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade educators in recognition of their commitment and contributions to middle level education.
Members of the team are: Joanna Barre (gifted education), Rachel Butler (English language arts), Erin Ereg (social studies), Kelly Hall (science), Zach Scisciani (intervention specialist) and Jillian Wingate (math). They received the award in November at OMLA’s annual conference in Sandusky.
“The White Tigers team has worked tirelessly to help students succeed academically and socially,” said Cloverleaf Middle School Principal Kristina Yako. “Our sixth-grade teams have a challenging job because they take fifth-grade students and help prepare them and transition them to middle school. They help them become confident and independent.”
Middle school teaming is a research-based approach that meets the unique developmental needs of early adolescents. Unlike the traditional junior high concept in which the school day is divided into class periods, the teaming concept blends subject areas through flexible scheduling and teacher-collaboration. In the teaming model, a student’s teachers meet regularly as a group to plan how they can work together to meet that student’s individual needs.
When a student is struggling, or even just having a bad day, team members can easily give one another a heads-up and devise ways to help and support that student.
“The more eyes on them, the better,” said Butler. “Because you get together in a group, in a team, and you talk about the kids, you can all be on the same page. When we all come together, we’re just better together for those kids.”
Team members also support one another through challenges, knowing each educator brings different skills, ideas and experiences to the group. It’s the same for students, added Ereg.
“The kids feel that teaming aspect, too,” she said. “They have their own community.”
White Tigers students, parents and staff teamed up for a Valentine's Day community service project earlier this year, spearheaded by Hall. Students made more than 100 personal care bags that were distributed to cancer patients, pediatric patients and elderly patients at area hospitals. The bags contained donated items like handmade bracelets, crossword puzzles, stuffed animals, mints, socks and more. Students assembled in the shape of a heart in the gym for a photo that accompanied the bags.
White Tigers teachers see the difference they’re making in students’ lives each day. Recognition from their OMLA peers reinforces that.
“We put a lot of energy and effort, a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it,” Scisciani said. “It feels good to hear somebody say: ‘Hey, keep it up. You’re doing good things.’