O’FALLON – The famous Bob Cryder, an O’Fallon Township High School graduate and former NFL player from the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, stopped by Fulton on Monday, March 11 to meet with the kids of “Cryder House.”
Cryder House is one of six “houses”, or smaller communities, into which Fulton is divided. Cryder House was named after Bob Cryder because of his O’Fallon roots.
Fulton assistant principal Alex Herrell said the 2018-19 school year was the first year implementing the “house” philosophy. It’s goal is to positively enhance the social and emotional culture of Fulton Jr. High.
Eighth grade English teacher Laura Derstine helped get the program on its feet, according to Herrell.
“The “houses” philosophy might remind you of Harry Potter and Gryffindor, and that is not too far off the mark,” Herrell said. “Historically originating from England, “houses” have proven to be a beneficial structure for educational institutions ranging from elementary schools on up to universities.”
“Similar to the houses implemented at the award-winning teaching school, The Ron Clark Academy, students are getting opportunities to build deeper relationships with staff and peers, which can foster positive adolescent development and a sense of belonging, acceptance, and camaraderie with their housemates.”
Coincidentally, Herrell said he had the pleasure of meeting Ron Clark at the recent ASCD Empower Conference in Chicago. He was the keynote speaker.
“Whether reading his books or watching him in action, he is truly inspiring and his methods have helped lead us in our new initiative this year,” he said. “When I told him what we were doing at Fulton, he was ecstatic to hear we were working on building that same culture in our school.”
On the first day of the school year, Herrell said students took part in a sorting ceremony that determined which of the six houses they would belong to for the remainder of their time as a Fulton Panther.
Each house is named after a famous or influential person in O’Fallon’s history. Schwarz House represents George Schwarz and his O’Fallon dairy plant. Schmitt House represents Joseph Schmitt, a NASA spacesuit pioneer. Cartier House represents Lionel Cartier who initiated O’Fallon’s park system. Peck House represents John Peck, O’Fallon’s first postmaster. Ogle House represents Joseph Ogle who made O’Fallon’s first modern-day settlement. And of course — Cryder House, which represents Bob Cryder.
“Above all, the unifying element all houses share is that everyone is an Edward A. Fulton Panther.”
Herrell said one of the first activities students did was create a house crest that represented both Edward A. Fulton, who was a former District 90 band director, and also their influential O’Fallon namesake.
“Most of the kids really seem to be having fun with this new approach to structuring the school culture.”
Throughout the year, Herrell said the students and house teachers have engaged in team building and relationship building activities to promote positive relationships between peers and between peers and staff.
Each house is divided into smaller “dens” to allow for more intimate conversations and relationship-building. Additionally, the students have engaged in student-led kindness projects to foster positivity among others, both inside and outside of the school.
“From as simple as leaving positive messages on lockers — all the way to leading toy drives for kids with cancer and writing holiday cards to solders overseas,” Herrell said. “Most recently, our school received recognition from the Kind Schools Network for successfully completing their Kindness Challenge in 2019.”
“We also engage the students in friendly school spirit competitions to earn rewards, such as the massive monthly pancake breakfast and the distinction of proudly displaying the Panther Spirit stick for the month.”
Herrell said that Fulton staff is responsible for teaching students more than just academics.
“We recognize middle school can sometimes be a complex time for adolescents, so we are always searching for innovative ways to help them navigate through this stage of life and keep believing in themselves.”
“We have been very excited with the positive gains we have seen in our students thus far with the house philosophy and look forward to growing it in the future,” he said. “It is truly helping us provide the nurturing guidance our students need while they are with us.”
To find out more fun things happening at Fulton Jr. High, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Fulton-Junior-High-559025640962922/.