Caledonia mantra spreads beyond elementary school

CALEDONIA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

The principal of Emmons Lake Elementary in Caledonia is putting that into practice with a mantra she started two years ago for her students.

“In the midst of when things were a little uncertain, and education, it was a time where we could really be overwhelmed that was just one small thing that will leave a positive impact,” Jennifer Schultz explained.

The saying is, “You are appreciated. You are loved. You matter.” She said it’s become more than a mantra and added, “it’s sort of how we do business here.”

With nearly 23 years in education, Shultz learned the importance of affirmations like this long ago.

“I had a few teachers and educators who said some positive things to me that honestly changed the trajectory of my life and really helped me land where I am now,” she said.

As much as she seemed to have everything together from the outside, she said that was not the case.

“Not so much… not so much… We all have our stories, right? My kids, colleagues, staff members, all of us have something that we are bringing to the table and really see each other as human and leave our heart prints on one another,” she explained.

Shultz started including the mantra in the morning announcements every day and eventually put it on T-shirts for all teachers and students. The kids at the school have carried that message out of the classroom.

Gabby Farrell is in the second grade at Emmons Lake and recently told a friend who was sad, “You are appreciated, you are loved, you matter.”

She believes it made a difference and wants kids outside her school to hear that message.

“They should always remember that even though their principal and other people might not say it to them,” she said. 

Connor Kowatch, a fourth-grade student, has used the mantra to help his 6-year-old sister.

“I told her what Mrs. Schultz says every day. She stopped crying, and then I gave her a hug, and she felt better,” he said. “It reminds me that I’m here, I can be myself, and people love me, and people care about me.”

This week, the school took a picture using a drone, capturing all of the students and teachers wearing their mantra T-shirts. Schultz has not copyrighted the phrase yet but has already seen the ripples from casting this stone.

Teachers in other schools around the state are now using it in their classrooms.

“I even get parent phone calls saying thank you so much. I had a rough day at work. My kiddo came home and was like it is OK, mom, you’re appreciated, you are loved, and you matter. Kids are saying it to one another,” Schultz said.

She is looking forward to seeing how far those ripples reach.

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