It all started with a video.
Oak Park High School teacher Jamie McSparin decided she wanted to uplift students and teachers using something she learned over a summer training session.
First, she recruited some teachers.
"I just kind of ambushed them and said, ‘Hey, want to help me with a project?’ ‘Sure,’" McSparin said.
Then they each picked a student who inspired them to be a better teacher and come to work every day, telling them while they recorded their reaction.
The Oak Park Positivity Project was born, and the impact has been huge.
McSparin shared, "I've gotten emails from people all over the country this morning saying, ‘Give me logistics. We want to do this in our buildings. How did you do this?’"
Oak Park senior Joey Anello said, "I feel like it motivates a lot of kids. You could just come here, do your work, go home, eat, sleep. It's awesome to have friends like that. Especially teachers."
He was chosen by the school's cheer coach.
Senior Leanna Borgeson was picked by the head of the Science Olympiad.
"It was really nice to be told that I was valued for the things that are just my characteristics. The things that I am anyway," she said.
"It was just really powerful to watch the kids. Their eyes, the smiles on their faces, even if it was just a fleeting smile like I'm too cool to smile," McSparin added. "Really seeing the students' reactions was obviously the initial thing but seeing the teachers’ reactions afterward."
McSparin believes the project will have a lasting effect because, "If a student feels valued, they're going to come to school. And if a student feels valued by a specific teacher they're going to work hard for that teacher."
Dia Wall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.