WSD Voice - Podcast

WSD Voice Podcast AdvertisingWSD Voice is a Waterford School District podcast that focuses on topics geared toward inspiring, educating and empowering our students, staff, alumni and community.

The goal of WSD Voice is to inform our audience about our district’s positive news while showcasing our successes. Listen below to learn more about all the exciting and innovative work going on behind the scenes in Waterford School District.  

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Season 3

Episode 4: Celebrating the 2023-2024 School Year
Published: May 2024

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In this episode, we focus on some of the amazing accomplishments both staff and students achieved during the 2023-2024 school year. First, we talk to three of our Waterford School District 2024 graduates to learn their plans for the future. Next, we meet April Lennox, our 2024 Waterford Foundation Teacher of the Year.

Guests for the 2024 graduates discussion:
Thomas Kauwe, Senior, Mott High School
Avery Stretten, Senior, Durant High School
Aiden Reynolds, Senior, Kettering High School

Guests for the 2024 Waterford Foundation Teacher of the Year discussion:
April Lennox, 4th grade teacher, Haviland Elementary

Hosts: Sarah Davis, Director of Communications and Community Relations
Scott Lindberg, Superintendent
Producer: Jane Tekiele, Video Production Coordinator

- Hello, welcome to "WSD Voice," a podcast focused on positive and informative news in Waterford School District. I'm your host, Sarah Davis, the Director of Communications and Community Relations, and I'm here with Waterford School District Superintendent, Scott Lindberg.

- Hello, Sarah. Hello, everyone. This is gonna be our last episode for '23/'24 school year, and like we've done in previous years, we're going to spend it celebrating our many successes.

- Yes, and before we begin to do that, Scott, what are some of your proudest or most interesting moments perhaps from the 23/24 school year?

- Well, as we've continued this year, our focus on teaching and learning academic achievement, our investments in our curriculum, we've talked about this over $4 million. We're approaching over 10 million technology enhancements and just a real focus on moving our district forward. That's really come hands down, a continued focus this year. Staff-related, I could go through the list, but we've had multiple staff recognitions, highlights, athletic director of the county, our teacher, and para and bus transportation, recognition, the list goes on. And we have to mention our community partnerships through many organizations throughout the community. Our partnership with the Waterford Police Department, the fire department, and also the township and supervisor Gary Wall.

- Yeah, that's a lot of stuff. Craig Blomquist as well nominated for Principal of the Year. So lot of staff. So it's been a great year. Now let's get to our episode topic and meet some of our amazing seniors who will soon graduate. As is tradition, we have asked each of our high school principals to select one senior to represent their school on the podcast. So without further ado, let's meet our first student, Thomas Kauwe, who is from Mott High School. Thomas was recently recognized by the Water for Foundation for Public Education as a Select Fiftty student, is one of the top academic achievers in his class and is also a varsity baseball athlete. He's heading to practice after the show. He already told us. So it sounds like you have a lot going on. Is there anything else that you participate in, either through Mott or after school that you'd like to tell us about?

- I did a lot of Link Crew throughout the years, my junior and senior year. I like to help the freshmen and kind of get them introduced into the school. And then all I do after school is work at McDonald's.

- Okay. So for Link Crew, why is it something that's of interest to you to help the new students kind of orient themselves?

- Because the new generation that comes into the school kind of seems as they might take care of me in the future or maybe they're just scared and I want to help build the confidence of new freshmen coming into the school.

- Awesome, so what has your path through WSD been? What schools have you attended in the district?

- My elementary year, I have attended Houghton Elementary and then for middle school, I did Pierce Middle School and obviously Mott High School.

- Okay. So Houghton, Pierce and then Mott, excellent. And how did the education you received at Mott do you feel prepared you to succeed now that you're just a few weeks away from graduation?

- There was some classes that weren't as organized as they could have been, but it kind of teaches you to kind of work on the fly. But there were a lot of classes that made me feel comfortable in the work environment and a lot of the students around me were really organized and respectful to each other.

- Okay, how so in the work environment did it make you feel more comfortable or give you experience in that regard?

- The teachers were really friendly. Same with the colleagues and the peers that I was working along with.

- Okay, so you've already kind of touched on this, but as someone who is involved in Link, what advice would you give to students younger than you while you were doing that program? What were maybe some things that you taught those students?

- Be really dedicated in all your years in high school because not only is it going to improve your work ethics and how dedicated you can be to a subject, it looks good further on in life when you're applying to jobs and et cetera.

- Okay. So what are your plans for the future now?

- I'm gonna be going to Madonna, Madonna University out in Livonia. I'm gonna be going for exercise and sports science, trying to become a physical therapist. And I actually have been... I'm putting on... I got put on the shortlist for baseball, so...

- Okay.

- I'm gonna be playing baseball there as well.

- Excellent. Well, congratulations to you. I'm sure you're excited to be doing that, both the academics and the athletics at the same time as well. Scott, anything you have to say to Thomas?

- Yeah, well, I just wanna check in. Athletics, you're playing baseball right now, what position?

- For high school, I'm doing pitcher first base and outfield. But for college, I'm going for pitcher and first base.

- Oh, okay. All right. Well, excellent. Well, I wish you luck in that. And what's interesting, Thomas, is one of the things we like to be here is AAA district that focuses on academics, the athletics, and also the arts. And certainly you're talking about the academics and the athletics. So I just wanna wish you well. And do you think you're prepared and going into college now and how do you feel about making this transition?

- I'm definitely a little nervous about it. It's really, I don't wanna say stressful, but it's kind of exciting, yet anxiety-inducing, because it's the next chapter in life. It's another page in my book. But I feel very prepared to take that next step in life.

- Excellent. Well, we wanna wish you well. Congratulations for representing Mott and the Waterford School District as well as you have. What's the baseball record so far? I'm not sure if I know it.

- Not so hot.

- Not so hot. Okay. But you're having a good time.

- Having a good time.

- And you're learning the skills, you've got the talent and you're gonna take that into your college years. So congratulations. Have a good time. Enjoy the ride every step of the way. If I could look back over the years, I might have taken time to just sit back and enjoy the learning and the opportunities, get on that field and toss a no-hitter, those types of things. So we wanna wish you well. And thank you for taking part in our podcast today.

- Of course, Waterford Mott has made it easy to grow as a person.

- Thank you.

- Of course.

- That's great to hear. Thanks, Thomas, and congratulations. We're gonna take a quick commercial break and then we will be back with our next student.

- [Scott] Hello, Scott Lindberg here, Superintendent of Waterford School District. It's time to start thinking about where your child should attend school for the 24/25 school year. At Waterford School District, we aim to create today's student to become tomorrow's leader, and we are uniquely prepared to build your child's bright future. We have recently invested over $4 million in cutting edge curriculum, and in September of this year, we are opening a brand new state-of-the-art Stepanski Early Childhood Center, which we are currently accepting registration for. Learn more and enroll at That's Come join us here at Waterford School District where your child will be inspired, educated, and empowered to thrive.

- And we are back here on "WSD Voice," celebrating all that has been accomplished this past school year. With us now we have Durant student, Avery Stretton, who actually graduated from Durant in the term three ceremony in April not that long ago. And so we welcome her to the program and congratulations to you on graduating.

- Thank you.

- What have you been up to since that day?

- Kind of just sorting things out with college, getting ready to kind of get out there, starting working, kind of just getting ready.

- Yeah, there's a lot to prepare for and getting ready for all of those different things. For sure. So what are some plans that you have moving forward?

- Definitely securing other jobs too and mostly kind of seeing other opportunities that I can create within what I want to do.

- Okay, any jobs that you've been thinking of in particular that you'd like to go for?

- There are a few that I have been thinking of. There's a couple of bakeries around here that I'm kind of looking at.

- Right, so one of the things during a graduation ceremony in April that was talked about was that you're interested in baking and I think you have plans to go to Oakland Community College coming up. Can you talk about that a little bit?

- There isn't really much to say about that, but I do plan to go to OCC for that and kind of getting also more into cooking skill sets too, and not just into baking and pastry, even though that might be what I wanna focus on.

- Right, we were talking about it a little bit before we started, but why is that an interest of yours?

- I've kind of always enjoyed doing that sort of thing, kind of creating my own twist on other recipes I found too, and kind of seeing who enjoys what and seeing kind of what I can make.

- Yeah. What's your favorite pastry to make or maybe to eat?

- I make some really good cinnamon roll cookies. They're real good.

- Yeah. Scott, what's your favorite pastry? I know you like sweets.

- Yeah, I like Lee's Donuts. And I've been going to this bakery and around the corner from office and they always run out. I can't get in there, but I'm very particular, so they don't have them, I leave. I don't get anything.

- So kind of reflecting on your time at Durant and all of that, what would you say is a valuable lesson or two that you learned during your time there?

- Just keep going. It's an environment where you can grow and learn, but also kind of fall back on and have the support of teachers and friends. Everybody there really does just want the best for you and they wanna see you become happy and successful.

- Excellent.

- That's wonderful.

- Yeah. Scott, anything you'd like to add?

- Well, so I wanted to ask, one of the things is maybe artistic or you kind of do the arts through what you cook or throughout what you make, because I was thinking about my wife, she tried a new recipe, put a different twist on it, and there are family members that are into the arts, different ways, drawings, paintings, but she does it through cooking. Do you find that an interest of yours just through cooking?

- Absolutely.

- Yeah.

- Absolutely. I do.

- You like to create different meals, whether pastries, baking?

- Yes, absolutely. Me and my dad every weekend finding something that we'd want to learn to make and then adding our own little things onto it or creating a completely new dish entirely out of things that we've seen or been inspired from. I really love it.

- Yeah. And so you do that with your dad, you say?

- Yes.

- Yeah. Well, that's great. No, I think that's wonderful because not everybody does that. And I walked in last night and I said, oh my gosh, it smells like a restaurant in here. And those are the leftovers I have for dinner tonight before our next meeting. So, well, I just wanna encourage you, it was so good to have met you and be at your graduation last month with Durant, with the group of your colleagues that graduated. We wanna wish you the best of luck and you have plans, and we know this is a transition time, right? And you talked about getting ready, stepping into those next opportunities and you've got some interests that are driving you. So that's wonderful. We just wanna thank you for taking part in our podcast today.

- Thank you for having me.

- Yeah, absolutely. Thank you, Avery. Good luck as you go forward and congratulations on all that you've accomplished so far.

- Thank you.

- [Scott] Hello, Waterford School District, Superintendent Scott Lindberg here. And I'd like to cordially invite you to the grand opening of our new Stepanski Early Childhood Center this fall. The event will take place from 10:00 AM to noon on Saturday, September 14th. The entire community is invited to come celebrate. The first new building Waterford School District has opened in 50 years. It is important to ensure a bright future for our students and it starts with investing in early childhood education like we are doing here at Waterford School District. I hope to see you there.

- Okay, so up next in the hot seat, we have Kettering senior, Aiden Reynolds. Aiden, your principal tells me you're an athlete, DECA Superstar and also help run an insurance agency. So it sounds like we have a lot to talk about today. Let's start with what you do as it relates to school. What are some extracurricular activities you're involved in?

- Yeah, involved in a couple of things at the school. Like we talked about a little bit earlier, I was part of DECA, been a part of DECA for about three years now.

- [Sarah] And what is DECA?

- Yeah, so I guess I mean the term for it is Distributive Education Clubs of America. Just to sum it up, basically it's a bunch of kids getting together, networking, socializing, coming up with business proposals to present to these judges that we got to obviously present to. They'll give us a scoring based off how we do. And from there, we will see if we make it to the next level, go to our state competition or potentially our international competition, which is hell in different states every year. So it's pretty cool.

- Which you said you did go to the international culture.

- Yeah, this year I went, we actually just came back. We went last week. We went to Anaheim, California for four or five days. It was pretty cool. We had three kids from our chapter who had presented to these judges. I had gone, I didn't end up winning of course, but it was just a good experience to go. And then last year I went as well. We went to Florida, same thing. I did a project with two others in our chapter and went very well. But it's just so hard to qualify at that top level. I mean there's so many kids there. I think this year is around 23,000. Oh, the competition?

- Yeah, yep.

- Wow.

- Yeah.

- Yeah, I wouldn't have thought that many. That is a lot.

- Yep. It's all over. Kids from all over. There's kids from China, Dominican Republic, everywhere.

- Oh wow. Well, congrats for making it that far.

- Thank you.

- Anything else besides DECA?

- Yeah, so I do Link Crew at our school. It's just basic freshman help, getting them involved in some programs within the school, making them feel welcome of course. And also I'm an executive board member for our National Honor Society. So try and do as much as we can to help out with the community. Then I played football for two years, freshman year and sophomore year, had some elbow surgery, so I kind of cut that out. And then been a varsity baseball. Been on varsity baseball for four years now and I'm team captain, so.

- [Scott] All right.

- Great. Awesome. Well, with all of that involvement, you must have a lot of great memories. What would you say is maybe one of your fondest memories during your time at high school?

- Yeah, I'd have to say easily, my best memory was freshman year, started it off early, but playing baseball with all these older kids. It was a great experience just to kind of be mentored by these older guys and we ended up winning the district. We're district champs and I'll always remember that moment for sure. Also, we kind of talked about earlier with DECA, going and winning the state competition was also just high up there. It was just so cool being on that stage, looking around, seeing all those people, and getting your name called and you're getting that plaque. You can't beat that.

- Right.

- It's pretty awesome.

- Indeed, yeah.

- Right. So what schools have you gone to in WSD? You're at Kettering now. Where else have you gone?

- Yeah, started off early at Stepanski for preschool. Then moved to Beaumont and then Pierce Middle School and like you said, now Kettering.

- Okay. Excellent. Stepanski.

- Yep.

- We got a new school going now.

- Yeah.

- Have you seen the rebuild?

- I've seen the rebuild.

- Yeah.

- Yeah, I drive past it almost every day, so...

- Yeah.

- It looks nice.

- Yeah. So Mr. Hardwood had mentioned that you also run an insurance company. Talk to us about that.

- Yeah, not quite run it. I'm more just a part of the insurance agency. Joe Fagan State Farm is... It's where I work. It's right off 59 and Hospital. Small little office there. And yeah, so I'm an account representative is my title. What I do is, I mean, simple admin work, pretty much just picking up the phone, making outbound calls, making sure people pay their bill, just more getting people along to where they need to be so that they're all set with their insurance. And right now I'm getting licensed, I'm working on getting licensed so I can sell insurance. And I have the availability to work remotely from college. So I have that job.

- Interesting.

- Pretty steadily throughout college as well.

- That'll be great. So this is part of your future plans then?

- Not fully.

- Okay.

- It's a good introduction to what I want to do working with finance. Well, my goal is to be or work with accounting. I like the seeing the numbers of everything, the finances. So this is getting me introduced, but eventually I do wanna break out to that field.

- Okay, excellent. So it doesn't seem like you likely have a lot of spare time, but when you do, what is it that you do for fun?

- Yeah, I mean, I love hanging out with my friends. It's always good to see people you know. So I try and stay a little active with them. I mean, we go out golfing every now and then. We like to go bowling a lot as well. But other than that, I mean, hanging with my family. Can't beat family, so that's number one of course. But yeah, try to stay active, go see my friends a little bit and then sometimes hang at home.

- Okay, and talk about your plans for college a little bit more.

- Yeah, going to play baseball over at Lansing Community College. I'm on a full ride scholarship, so can't beat that.

- Congratulations.

- Yeah. Thank you so much.

- That's great.

- So yeah, going to play there. Gonna study accounting. Yeah, I'm just looking forward to the experience. I think I'm pretty ready for it. I'm looking forward to it. So should be pretty solid.

- Sounds like it. Awesome. Scott, any words of wisdom or-

- Yeah, well, congratulations on your scholarship and we were talking, you're a pitcher.

- Yep.

- Your favorite pitch is...

- Forcing fastball.

- Now why is that? Just 'cause you fire it in there?

- Yeah. It's so reliable. You always know you can get ahead in the count with that one.

- You get a lot of swing and misses with that or you just...

- Yeah.

- You're standing there by the side of the house, by the side of the road.

- Yeah, I mean you obviously get a lot of swing and misses, sometimes you get the contact, you just got to locate it, get it in there.

- Yeah.

- Gets you head in the count. Can't beat that.

- And what's neat is you talked about you came over with the older kids in as a freshman ninth grade, and you've worked yourself up and now you've got a scholarship.

- Yeah. Yep.

- And so that's fantastic. And so I wanna congratulate you on that.

- Thank you.

- You've represented us so well. Again, we had a student earlier representing Waterford , representing Waterford Kettering. Where do you see this going, your baseball, your insurance, how do you see that? How has that developed you as a individual?

- Oh, it has helped tremendously, tremendously.

- Yeah.

- Honestly, I've been working at the insurance agency for nine months now and I mean, just the development over those nine months of just talking with people even is so much better than what it was before. It just gets you so familiar with carrying on a conversation, talking with anybody. I feel like I can go up to anybody and talk to them for a couple of minutes at a time. It's so easy now. And obviously baseball has helped as well. You got your teammates, they always got your back. You learn how to work together with people, figure out what everybody can do to contribute to reach that one goal that you need. So I mean, both of those have just played into every everyday life basically for me.

- Yeah. Well, Aiden, congratulations to all of your successes. I know more to come. Senior's last day is three weeks from Wednesday. We're just talking about that. So it's coming quickly but you've got so much on your future horizon to look forward to. We wanna congratulate you.

- Yeah, thank you.

- Thank you for joining us today.

- Thank you so much.

- Yeah. Congratulations, Aiden.

- Thank you.

- We have time for one more commercial break and then we will be back for the final segment of our show to meet our 2023/2024 Teacher of the Year.

- [Scott] Hello Waterford School District, Superintendent Scot Lindberg here. The Waterford Pool and Fitness Center is your recreation and fitness community center. We offer a welcoming, supportive environment for people who are interested in recreation, fitness, and enjoyment. We have both land and water fitness classes for all levels and offer both annual and three-month memberships. Find out more about our pools and fitness center programming on our website at That's

- Welcome back to "WSD Voice." We are here discussing all of the exciting things that took place this past school year. And our Teacher of the Year is certainly one of those points of pride. I'd like to welcome to the show the Waterford Foundation for Public Education's 2024 Teacher of the Year, Ms. April Lennox, who teaches fourth grade at Haviland Elementary School. Thank you for being here, April, and congratulations on this achievement.

- Thank you so much. It's an honor.

- Yes.

- So you were successfully nominated by Bethany Coe an ASD para who works at Haviland and who is the mother of triplets who are in your class this year. Were you surprised when a team of people came into your classroom and surprised you on that day?

- I was shocked. Incredibly surprised as my students were as well. I was tearing up and my heart was racing and I was on emotional overload. It was very intense and exciting. I think the best part about it was so many people were there to enjoy it with me, with the surprise, and the best part was my family being there.

- Yes, absolutely. I can see you kind of tearing up a little bit just talking about it. So one of my favorite things about when they do the surprise, this is the third year that I've seen it, is when they do the clap out at the school and all the students and the staff gather in the hallway and clap as you kind of walk out for the day. Because one of the things you get by winning is you can leave for the day. They bring in a sub for you. So yeah, how did you feel during that clap out?

- Oh my goodness. I was overcome with all the hugs and the congratulations and my kids were hugging me saying they were excited and you're famous. They thought I was gonna be... My face was gonna be everywhere, and it is, which is very strange. But one of my students, as I was walking down the hall and I had passed my kids already yells out, "That's my teacher." And it was what gave me the emotional burst to not start crying was these kids were behind me supporting me and it was fantastic.

- Yeah. That's awesome. So just so our listeners know, when you win Teacher of the Year, you get to leave school early that day like I mentioned, but then after the surprise you get to pick out a new, and most importantly a free car. So we're so grateful for the Foundation's partnership this year with Joe Lunghamer Chevrolet and Waterford, who so graciously provided you with this opportunity. So tell us about what you picked out and why.

- The Waterford Foundation in Lung Hammer were fantastic. So generous. I'm so grateful. I picked out a 2024 Chevy Blazer 3LT, Red Line edition. She is summit white with red accents and so I've nicknamed her Red. I nickname all my cars, but she's special because she's red and I really just like the smaller feel of the SUV versus a truck or a large SUV. So it's got a very peppy engine, which I enjoy as well. Somewhere on the paperwork it said turbo something.

- Oh yeah.

- So that made me very excited.

- Yeah, sounds awesome. Sounds awesome.

- I do wanna mention that there were seven total nominees for Teacher of the Year, and this year, the focus was on the elementary level teachers. So I'm gonna read all the names of the other nominees. We have Ashley Back, Schoolcraft Elementary, fourth grade, Erin Crimmings, Schoolcraft Elementary, second grade, Rachel Tague, Schoolcraft Elementary, first grade, Heather Wichtman, Schoolcraft Elementary, second... Or I'm sorry, third grade. David Bruce Gardner, Knudsen Elementary, fifth grade. And Melissa McGill, also from Haviland Elementary, who teaches fifth grade. So great job to all these nominees. We're very grateful for your dedication to our students. But, April, that's a lot of other nominees. What would you like to say about these other candidates?

- First, congratulations. I know that they feel the same way I do with the nomination is just enough. That's fantastic that we know parents are supporting us and they feel so strongly about what we're doing with their kiddos every day. And I know they feel that way too. Second of all, some of these fantastic colleagues I've had the opportunity to work with. I work with Melissa McGill, she's a fantastic teacher. So I see her daily. Rachel and David - I worked with at Burt. So we go back as Burt Bobcats many years, they are two fantastic educators. Ashley, Erin, and Heather I have not had the opportunity to work with, but I've heard from other colleagues that they're fantastic educators and all deserving of the nomination.

- Scott, anything you wanna add about April winning Teacher of the Year or other nominees that we have this year?

- Well, one of the things I enjoyed going into elementary is going in the classrooms and kind of walking the walls. I really enjoyed your classroom. Your students were engaged. You could see obviously because you're Teacher of the Year, but the kids are connected and it takes me back to not only all of these teachers that were nominated, but my own teachers. And I had lunch. I had the honor of having lunch with my first grade teacher about five years ago. She's in her 80s, but she had such an impact on my life back then in what, 1976, you know? And so we're talking many years and I know you do the same and I could see that connection in your classroom. And so these are such pivotal years in elementary. You're teaching kids to read and then the reading to learn, teaching foundational facts. But also again, the smiles, the joy of learning, the joy of being in school and the family atmosphere, just absolutely outstanding. And I saw that in your classroom.

- Thank you. That's important to me. Build those bonds, you build the bond, they will learn. And they have to know every day you love them. You care about them and hold them to those high expectations. My kids know that and I love them.

- Yeah, I remember even back to first grade with Mrs. Robbins having that morning meeting time, I mean, how many years ago and how important that connection was. And that's what you do in your classroom and all of these teachers do.

- Absolutely.

- Yeah.

- Excellent. The Foundation also mentioned that many of the nominees were also graduates of Waterford School District. Something that we're very proud of. April, you are one of those as well. Can you tell us a little bit about your time in the school district aside from working here?

- I am a Waterford graduate, class of '94 at Waterford Mott. I had fantastic teachers all through. I started at Della Lutes which isn't in elementary anymore. I started there and went to Pierce and then Mott and I had some fantastic teachers along the way. Like I was saying earlier, Craig Blomquist, fantastic teacher. Kay Lewis, I could name so many. They're just so many wonderful teachers I've had that have given me the inspiration to go on and teach myself. So I haven't forgot them. They're in my thoughts every day with what I do. Edwina Bednar has made me love math. And now my own kids in my class will say, "Oh, Mrs. Lennox loves to teach math." That's all Edwina. She did that. So fantastic foundation laid here in Waterford and I'm proud to be able to give back.

- Right, and you've worked here for 23 years.

- Yes.

- So what is it that's so special about Waterford? You grew up here, went to school here, now you're working here.

- I would say just the community itself. We have top notch educators here. I have worked with so many fantastic teachers. I've had so many fantastic students, parents. The parental support is there. It's just a good community. There's so many parents that know how important education is and they back you and they wanna help and they do the teamwork because you have to do the teamwork with these kiddos. Home, school connection. So the community is why I'm here and why I will be here. Not going anywhere.

- Right, right. And with all these years, what's your favorite memory so far?

- Oh gosh. I have so many.

- It's hard to pick, right?

- That's hard to pick. But I do have a letter that I have framed at home from a former student many, many years ago who wrote me a letter when she was in college and said to me, "Thank you for always believing in me. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for being a positive role model. And thank you for test taking strategies because I'm still using them."

- Oh yeah.

- And that has just stuck with me. It's in a five by seven frame. She wrote me a little card and it's very special to me. Yeah.

- Scott, anything more you wanna add before we...

- Yeah, well, April, again, congratulations. We're looking forward to celebrating with you and all the nominees in a week where we have the Teacher of the Year dinner. And so we'll be celebrating you and all of your colleagues, but you just represent Waterford in such a wonderful way. You grew up here, went to school here, you're teaching here, giving back. And this is just a small token of our thanks to you to be a part of our podcast so we can share with the rest of the community and those around Waterford, how wonderful you are and what you mean to our students and community.

- Thank you. It's my honor. It's my honor.

- Excellent. Well thank you for being here again. Congratulations to you.

- Thank you.

- And also, I'd like to thank our three students that were guests here on the program earlier, Thomas, Avery, and Aiden. We all know that they're gonna have some very bright futures ahead as well. So some great people on the program today. This podcast is brought to you by Waterford School District's Department of School and Community Services, and is produced by video production coordinator, Jane Tekiele. I am the host of this podcast, Sarah Davis, and you can find all episodes of "WSD Voice" on our website Or you can tune into 89.5 WAHS Radio Centro Multicultural, or any Waterford Community cable channel. We also invite you to subscribe to the podcast, which is available on Apple Podcast, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Amazon Music, and if you wanna watch the recording on our WSD YouTube channel. We so appreciate you listening today and encourage you to tune into future episodes of "WSD Voice" as we discuss topics geared toward inspiring, educating, and empowering our students, staff, alumni, and community to thrive.

Episode 3: HR's Innovative Approach to Grow Your Own
Published: April 2024


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Waterford School District's Department of Human Resources is the recipient of a $ 2-million grant from the Michigan Department of Education. This grant will allow any WSD staff member interested in either obtaining an initial teaching certification or hoping to add more endorsements to attend college for free, fully covered by this grant.

Susan File (Executive Director of Human Resources)
Nichole Rinehart (Teacher, Grayson Elementary, Donelson Hills Elementary)
Ergys Hasa (Building Substitute Teacher, Mott High School)

Sarah Davis, Director of Communications and Community Relations
Scott Lindberg, Superintendent

Jane Tekiele, Video Production Coordinator

- Hello, welcome to WSD Voice, a podcast focused on positive and informative news in Waterford School District. I am your host, Sarah Davis, the Director of Communications and Community Relations, and I'm here with Waterford School District Superintendent, Scott Lindberg. In all of our previous episodes, we have focused on something related to students, but today we're going to gear this podcast toward another very important part of our WSD family and that is our staff.

- Yes, Sarah. Our staff here at WSD is second to none. They work every day to create innovative and safe learning environments for our students, and we are truly grateful for them. It is because of this that it is also important for us as a school district to invest in our staff. This is something that as superintendent, I believe wholeheartedly in, and I've been pleased to work hand in hand with our human resources department on cultivating a culture in WSD that supports our staff in a variety of ways.

- Absolutely. So we're here today to talk about some of the recruitment and retention methods we've recently used and how they're working. Here to join us for that conversation is WSDs Executive Director of Human Resources, Susan File. Hello Susan. Thank you for joining us today.

- Thank you so much for having me. It's an honor.

- First, let's talk about some major HR news that we have from your department this year. WSD was one of only four school districts in Oakland County to receive a $2 million Grow your Own Grant from the State of Michigan. First of all, congratulations, Susan, to you and your team for receiving this grant. I know it took tremendous work to obtain and implement. So can you tell us what is Grow Your Own?

- Absolutely. I'd be honored to. The Grow Your Own Grant is a historical opportunity offered by the Michigan Department of Education in response to the teacher shortage that we've all heard about and we all know that we're experiencing here in Michigan. And literally the Grow Your Own means it wants to take district's current employees and help them to become educators. So growing our own employees who are already invested in our students into teachers for our next generation. We have experienced that shortage here in Waterford. We've really struggled and fought to hire teachers and this has been an incredible opportunity to offer our staff. And I know that the fundamental process that Michigan Department of Education brought this forward is in fact to fill the pipeline, help fill the pipeline for teachers for our next generation.

- Okay. So what are some of the parameters of that grant?

- So it was designed so that school districts could partner with universities that offered educator preparation programs. That's a fancy word for teaching programs when we go to teaching colleges so we can get a teaching cert. Our Waterford employees have the opportunity in two different ways. If you're a support staff and you don't currently hold a teaching certificate, this will help you to obtain your initial endorsement to become a teacher. Or, secondly, the second arm of the grant is for our current certified teachers, they can earn additional endorsements. So perhaps they're an elementary teacher, but they want to become an ELD teacher, they want to become a special education teacher. These are ways in which these teachers can add that depth to their teaching cert.

- What a great opportunity. What is covered by this grant exactly for these teachers?

- So it is very extensive because MDE really wanted to try to make this a barrier free program. It covers tuition, it covers the registration fees, it covers the testing cost. At the end of the education classes, they have to take a test, MTTC as we know it, in order to obtain that endorsement. And it covers books, it covers travel, and it's really extensive. They have really done a great job to make it barrier free.

- Yeah, it sounds like they've tried to think of everything, all the expenses that might come up when you're a student. 'Cause there's a lot of little things. You think about the tuition, right? Maybe the room and board if that's, this wouldn't be the situation in this, but all those other little things, like you said, the books or the transportation.

- [Susan] Yes. Right down to the $75 fee to apply. And we just got the bill from Oakland University that we were able to reimburse those three teachers that cost.

- Wow. Okay. And as I understand it, there's a special education component to the grant as well.

- There is. And if you're on the Michigan Department of Education website and you go to Michigan Grow Your Own Grant, you'll see there's several different types of grants going on. Our Student Support Services Department has been actively working to assist current educators under the MDE Special Education Teacher Tuition Reimbursement Grant. This is a very specific grant that allows our certified teacher, perhaps you're an elementary teacher and you're a certified teacher and you want to become a special ed teacher, you can receive up to $800 per credit hour, up to 18 credits towards working towards that special education endorsement. And while doing so, we are able to get the authorization from MDE that they can currently work in the field as they're going to school. So what we're doing now with the Grow Your Own is, so we'll have certain special education endorsements require a full master's degree. Well, we know that's more than 18 credits. So we are working to compliment those staff members that are on that path, that the first 18 credits will be paid for by the special ed grant. And then that's where we pick up and then we can help them and use the grant funds to pay for the rest of the program so that they're endorsed to become a new special ed teacher.

- Hmm. Wow. That's amazing. Very exciting.

- Yes.

- I can't wait to hear more about it, but first we need to take a quick commercial break and then we will be back to learn more about the additional details of the Grow Your Own Grant. Hello, Scott Lindberg here, Superintendent of Waterford School District. It's time to start thinking about where your child should attend school in the '24-25 school year. At Waterford School District, we aim to create today's student to become tomorrow's leader and we are uniquely prepared to build your child's bright future. We have recently invested over $4 million in cutting edge curriculum. And in September of this year, we are opening a brand new, state-of-the-art, Stepanski Early Childhood Center, which we are currently accepting registration for. Learn more and enroll at That's Come join us here at Waterford School District where your child will be inspired, educated, and empowered to thrive.

- Okay. And we're back discussing the $2 million Grow Your Own Grant opportunity Waterford School District is offering to our staff with our Executive Director of Human Resources, Susan File. Susan, where can the staff obtain their certifications and endorsements and is there a deadline for all of this?

- Yes, we are currently partnering with four universities, Oakland University, Central Michigan University, Northern Michigan University, and Wayne State University. The employees have up until December 31st, 2024 in which to become part of this Grow Your Own Grant opportunity.

- Alright, thank you for that information Susan. How many staff have shown an interest so far and how has the program been moving forward?

- So initially we had 57 staff members that responded to our survey. Since then, we've had even others say they've heard through the grapevine and through their colleagues, what about this, am I eligible? And so we've picked up more interested staff, both support staff as well as teachers. So we're still able to service and provide opportunities for other staff. And how we initially did this is we held Zoom meetings with, I invited all of those that initially participated in the survey to join me with the partnering university. So Oakland University would come on, we would, as an example, complete a PowerPoint and help the employee understand, because we've never done anything like this. You know, Michigan Department of Education has never offered this. The universities have never offered anything like this. Certainly Waterford School District has never offered this. And so the employees were working and growing along with us through that. And it's been a really good cooperative response between the employee, the partnering university and my department. And I can't go any further without really commending the entire team, the support staff in human resources that have worked tirelessly to answer the emails and to provide the information and to connect with the universities and helping our employees make sure that they're being serviced and they're doing the right thing, and they're turning in the right information, as well as our business services. They, the payroll, all of that team has helped us to connect the dots and finally get payment to the universities or reimbursement to the employees. And without them, all of 'em working together, we could have never lifted this up.

- So a lot of partnership internally.

- [Susan] Mm hmm.

- But then also externally, making connections with the universities and all of those different pieces coming together and everyone trying something for the first time, but it seems to be going well so far.

- Yes, yes.

- That's good. We wanted to hear firsthand from one of our teachers who is availing herself of this program. So Scott went to Grayson Elementary to meet with WSD teacher Nichole Rinehart. So let's listen to what she had to say.

- Hello, Superintendent Lindbergh here at Grayson Elementary with teacher Nichole Rinehart. Nichole, tell us about your current position and what are you doing right now?

- I am a resource room teacher at Grayson Elementary and Donelson Hills Elementary. So I'm half and half and I'm working with kids with IEPs and working on their goals and pushing them forward, and loving it.

- Great. And so the school you're attending now and the certification you are going for?

- I am currently a student at Oakland University for the second time, and I'm going for my Special Ed Certificate. It's a Master Certificate in Specific Learning Disabilities.

- Yeah. So what inspired you to take a look at Grow Your Own Grant and go forward with another certification?

- What was interesting when I first heard about it was, you know, a year or so ago when we were sent an email and asked if we were interested and I was, so I responded to the email and didn't think much of it. Meanwhile, before that came through, I had a position open and I emailed the powers that be and said, "Hey, I'm interested, what can we do?" So I'm one of the fortunate ones that gets to use part of the special education funds and the Grow Your Own Grant, both grants to fund my education. So that's super exciting.

- Yeah, great opportunity. How is this gonna enhance your career goals?

- Well, I think I'm already meeting my career goals right now just because I am so thrilled to have this opportunity. These were my people.

- Yeah.

- I think that I knew from the beginning this was what I needed to do. I needed for it to fall in my lap to go, yep, this is it. this is it.

- Yeah.

- And I thought going back to school at my age was gonna be hard.

- Yeah.

- And it is, but I enjoy it.

- Yeah.

- It reminds me of how much I already know, so it kind of revitalizes the career and revitalizes teaching and lets me know that what I'm doing is good stuff.

- Yeah. And as we were talking, you were very energetic and so you're just applying that energy to go a little bit further with your schooling.

- Yeah.

- Share a little bit of your experience with the grant process so far. How has that worked out for you?

- Could not have been easier. Like I said, I filled out a Google form, never gave it another thought. And then when I heard about the Special Ed Grant, that was so easy. It was like, yes, for sure, let's put you in that position. Now you need to register at Oakland University and you don't have to go there. But that was where I wanted to go. And when I heard about all that, I just kept forwarding information and registered for classes. And I am three classes in of eight and it's going to just help push me forward and be able to help support kids the best that I can.

- Yeah, that's great, supporting kids. What advice would you have for others that might be considering this same opportunity?

- If you're even thinking about it, do it. This is a once in a lifetime chance. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity. I know colleagues of mine that are taking advantage of this and I know they also don't regret it. If you're thinking about furthering your career, if you're thinking about pushing yourself forward or helping to support kids, better do it. Go for it. Do it. Look into it.

- Great. Well, thank you so much, Nichole. It was good talking with you today. Thank you.

- Thank you.

- Wow. Great to hear how Nichole is taking full advantage of the Grow Your Own Grant opportunity. After we met with Nichole, we also decided to stop in at Mott High School to hear the interesting story of Ergys Hasa, one of our permanent building subs who's taking advantage of the program. Let's listen to that interview.

- Hello, superintendent Scott Lindbergh here and we are at Mott High School and I'm here with our building substitute, Ergys Hasa. Ergys, you've got an interesting story. You have a PhD, but you're going back to school. Tell me a little bit about why.

- So yeah, when I was back home in Albania, so I work as an archeologist and of course I wanted to do that here too, but it was difficult. And so I tried to get another career. So as I explained when I was back home in Albania, so I had some experiences in teaching and I said, okay, why not try this experience here? And so this is one of the reasons that I applied in Waterford School District and my first position here, it was Bilingual Parents Resource Assistant. And this position helped me to decide for a new career in school working as a teacher. Yeah.

- And so what certification are you going for?

- So right now I'm enrolled in Educational Instruction Graduate Program at Northern Michigan University. And through this program I want to get my teacher certificate in a secondary education.

- How's your coursework going so far?

- So right now I am in the beginning phase of this program, but I can already tell that this program will indicate me to work, it would indicate my work with students.

- And so getting your degree, you're already working with students, you worked at Houghton Elementary last year. How will all of these experiences help you serve our students here in Waterford?

- So, yeah, so working with the different, let's say background elementary and high school level, so will definitely help me to work as a teacher. So of course that I will work hard to do my best here. So yeah.

- Excellent. Well, so good to have you here. Glad you took a hold of this opportunity and making the most of it.

- Yeah, thank you.

- Yeah, thank you.

- I'm so happy for both Ergys and Nichole who seem like they are really embracing this head on. Scott, what do you think of their stories and overall what the grant does for WSD?

- Well, the grant itself is transformative for WSD because as Susan mentioned, we are indeed growing our own. And part of our strategic plan is attract, value and retain. So we are growing our own by investing in our staff so they can invest in our students. And so talking with Nichole, talking with Ergys, we saw different stories, but we were so pleased to see how they are applying themselves and investing in the community and the students of the Waterford School District. So just great examples, great opportunities and just a great result for our students.

- Mm hmm. Absolutely. Grow Your Own is a major recruitment and retention tool in the district right now, but is not the only one. HR is quite busy.

- Right.

- I'm proud to share that the Communications Department actually partnered with Human Resources to create the Waterford Why Video Series. And this video series has been running for just over a year now. And every few months we feature a new firsthand testimony from a WSD employee or community stakeholder about why Waterford School District is the best place to work, develop, and flourish as a professional. This video series is also accompanied by a flyer that we have available to hand out at various job fairs and other community events. And we were pleased to recently learn that the Waterford Why earned an award from the National School Public Relations Association. Susan, aside from Grow Your Own and the Waterford Why, what are some other recruitment and retention pieces that you may be working on right now?

- I have to piggyback right on the job fair. And I was yesterday at Michigan State University at Teacher Job Fair and I used that Waterford Why Flyer and I gave them my Waterford Why, why is it that I want to be in Waterford and that they need to, to ensure that they find the district that they connect with. And I gave them lots of examples of why Waterford is, in my opinion, a destination district. The investment that we do, especially for our new teachers and the teacher induction program. So we are taking that in the HR office and shouting it from the mountaintop. Right. And that's been a real honor and a joy for me to do that. We are continuing on job fairs all spring and that is a great way to get into the educator's community and let them know that we are invested and we are seeking the best and the brightest, and we have the best and the brightest students and we want those teachers engaged with our students. Your department has been a great help for us regarding recruiting with social media, meeting the young educators oftentimes where they are. And so we're working on that and I expect that we'll be expanding that. We continually collaborate with our teachers union to ensure we are hearing on what it is that they feel that they need from the district that supports them in their work. We have to first listen before that we can act. And so that collaboration I think is really key. We are looking at investing in new ways, innovative technology for our onboarding and making things easier and more seamless for people to come and join Waterford School District.

- All right. Well that's a lot of stuff. Scott, some people might not really make the jump that investing in our staff is actually investing in our students too. I know that you have a background in HR from before you became superintendent. What do you think of all these new recruitment and retention tools that we have in place that Susan just talked about and what is their impact towards students?

- Well, the impact is as we are growing our staff, we've already hired the staff, right? So they've gone through the hiring process. We know that they are people that we want working with our students, collaborating with our staff, being part of the team. So now we're saying, "Hey, let's further develop your skills. Let's further develop what you can enhance in the classroom." And for me, for all of us, that is where the rubber meets the road is in every single classroom in this district before our students, bringing them along, making connections with families, helping students meet their personal best. So when we're helping our staff do their personal best, meet their goals, grow, then they do the same thing with our students. And that's why the Human Resources Department is really the heartbeat of the district, of any school district because there is where we're looking to build teams, collaboration, work with one another so we have the best people in front of our students. And that is what we're about every single day.

- I'd like to add too, that this program is really life changing for some, right? Perhaps they've always been in a support staff role and really wanted to be a teacher and that's why they're doing what doing, but they never had perhaps the financial opportunity to do so, their obligations to their family. This is allowing our staff an opportunity that they perhaps never had, or our current sitting teacher that perhaps it costs $30,000, $40,000 to become a special ed teacher or to become an ELD teacher. But that's a lot of money. And the grant provides this to our staff and we invest in them, and as Scott said, in turn they invest in the students.

- All right. Well thank you Susan, and thank you Scott for discussing the important role that HR plays, not only in supporting staff, but students as well, the heartbeat of the school district. And I'd also like to thank Ergys and Nichole who let us interview them and shared, their thoughts and experiences about participating in the Grow Your Own Grant program. And I hope that it continues to go well for them. Maybe we'll even have them back as a follow up.

- Sure.

- I'd love that.

- And see how it went. Susan, thank you for being here today. Obviously the work from what you've demonstrated, that Human Resources is doing is nothing short of transformative, and we're lucky to have you at the helm guiding all of these projects going on.

- Thank you. Thank you.

- For those of you who may have an interest in checking out our award-winning Waterford Why video series or applying for a job, you can engage with our Waterford School District LinkedIn page or visit the human resources page. This podcast is brought to you by Waterford School District's Department of School and Community Services, and it's produced by Video Production Coordinator Jane Tekiele. I am the host of the podcast, Sarah Davis, and you can find all episodes of WSD Voice on our website at, or you can tune in to 89.5 WAHS Radio Centro Multicultural, or any Waterford Community cable channel. We also invite you to subscribe to the podcast, which is available on Apple Podcast, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Amazon Music, and if you want to watch the recording on our WSD YouTube channel. We so appreciate you listening today and encourage you to tune into future episodes of WSD Voice as we discuss topics geared toward inspiring, educating, and empowering our students, staff, alumni, and community to thrive.

Episode 2: Teaming at our Middle Schools
Published: January 2024


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This past year, our middle schools started using a new teaching method known as "teaming." In this episode, we explore the advantages and challenges of implementing this innovative approach to learning for our WSD sixth through eighth graders.


  • Radhika Issac (Principal, Mason Middle School)
  • Kyle Schultz (Principal, Pierce Middle School)
  • Joe Brown (Teacher, Pierce Middle School)
  • Kolbe Sudgen (7th grade, Pierce Middle School)


  • Sarah Davis, Director of Communications and Community Relations
  • Scott Lindberg, Superintendent

Jane Tekiele, Video Production Coordinator

- Hello, welcome to "WSD Voice," a podcast focused on positive and informative news in Waterford School District. I am your host, Sarah Davis, the director of Communications and Community Relations, and I am here with Waterford School District Superintendent, Scott Lindberg. For those of you who are watching this podcast today on our YouTube channel, you may notice a little bit of a different setup. We had been sharing a studio with Media Network, but with our growing podcast, we realized we needed more space of our own, so here we are and as happy as we are to have this new studio. We did wanna thank Media Network for sharing their space and equipment with us for the past two years.

- Yes, it was because of that partnership that the podcast was even able to get going a couple years ago. So, we're grateful to them and the partnership indeed. Well, so now onto our podcast topic. Today, we have a couple of our middle school principals and we're here gonna talk about teaming at the middle schools sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. And as a former middle school teacher and principal, this is the topic I'm very passionate about 'cause I know it's good for kids teaching and learning.

- Yeah, absolutely. "So, what is teaming?" you may ask. I had the same question myself. So, we're going to get the answer to that and more with our guest today. We have with us Radhika Issac, principal at Mason Middle School, and Kyle Schultz, principal at Pierce Middle School. Both of these principals have been responsible for implementing this innovative teaching approach, which we started last year. So certainly, they both will have some great insights. Welcome to the show, Radhika and Kyle,

- Thank you for having us.

- [Kyle] Yeah, thanks for having us.

- Yep, no problem. So, Radhika will start with you. What is teaming and how does it differ from maybe a more traditional teaching method?

- Yeah, what I really appreciate about teaming is, you know, middle school is a transition from elementary to high school. So we go from one classroom, you know, just leaving that one classroom few times a day to now going to six different classes during the day. And so, what teaming allows us to do is it creates kind of a small neighborhood within our larger building. So each of our grade levels, we have two teams. Each team has four core teachers and what it does is with the four core teachers, we physically locate them right near one another. And the students that are part of that team, which is about 150 or so students, they have the same four core teachers and their lockers are right there. So essentially physically, it is a neighborhood within a building.

- Okay, so why would you use this method versus maybe a more traditional teaching method? Kyle, what are some of the benefits you get from teaming?

- Well, besides the fact that this is a much easier transition for students as they move on from elementary school to middle school, it's also develops a stronger sense of community within the school for both students and staff. They're now connected to a smaller group makes it a larger school, seem a lot smaller. It allows for students and staff to get to know each other better. And staff to get to know the needs of their students. Staff is able to stay entirely within one grade and share a common planning period, which is a huge advantage for, you know, meeting the needs of each of those individual kids. And it also allows the staff to work collaboratively on meeting the unique academic social and emotional needs of students and the middle school, because it's such a transition year and students are very need a lot of of support in all of those areas.

- Okay, so several benefits then. Radhika, you already just discussed what teaming is, but what, can you give us a little bit more of the details, How our team's formed? What are some of the processes used to select? What teachers or what students are part of each group? Some of those kinds of things.

- Yeah, so when students are transitioning from fifth to sixth grade, we ask our fifth grade teachers and even the students get a lot of input as to what their best learning scenarios might be, where we can support them. And then based on that, we really use a community focus. We wanna create again that sense of neighborhood. So, we want students to be represented in both teams equally. And so, we take a lot of time and effort to make sure that the staff that we place into each team has chosen to be there, is excited to work as a team. As Kyle mentioned, you know, we have the same prep period. So, there's five days of time built in for our teachers to actually collaborate with these students. So, we put a lot of emphasis on ensuring that our students feel welcomed. And so when we do put students on teams, though it's pretty random in some way, but not really because we sort of hand select and make sure that we put students exactly where we think that they're going to be successful.

- Okay, thanks for that information, Radhika. Let's take a quick commercial break, and then we will be back to learn more about teaming.

- [Scott] Hello, Waterford School District Superintendent Scotland Lindberg here. The Waterford Pool and Fitness Center is your recreation and fitness community center. We offer a welcoming, supportive environment for people who are interested in recreation, fitness and enjoyment. We have both land and water fitness classes for all levels and offer both annual and three month memberships. Find out more about our pools and fitness center programming on our website at That's

- Okay, and we're back again with Radhika Issac, principal at Mason, and Kyle Schultz, principal at Pierce to discuss teaming in our middle schools. So, it's obvious from this discussion that teaming requires a lot of partnership, which sometimes can result in other challenges. Kyle, there have been many challenges I'm sure that have come up. Can you kind of talk about some of those challenges, how you've worked through those? A couple of examples of that.

- Yeah, I think the number one challenge was that this was a new model for almost all of our staff. And so, it was a challenge for us to figure out how to maximize the advantages of of teaming. And we've done that a couple ways through professional development, both at the district level and at the building level, utilizing PLC meetings and having not only academic area meetings, but also grade level meetings in order for them to work together and collaborate. And then also allowing teachers to use their conference period to problem solve, whether it be issues within the team that they need to work out or how they can best support some of their, the students on their team.

- Okay, Radhika, any challenges from Mason?

- Yeah, similar to what was already shared. I'll just add onto that along with the professional learning, one of the things that we've offered our staff is to come in and model. I have staff that came from buildings and experiences that included teaming practices. So, we're capitalizing on the wealth of knowledge that's already in the building. We also, a lot, the biggest challenge is really practicing our restorative and making sure that we are restorative as a group of adults, and then also with our students. It has afforded us opportunities to really, you know, whenever there's a conflict, which there's always conflict, whether it's in the classroom, in the hallways, not getting along with the teacher or disliking something that's happening, the teaming model really allows our staff to meet together and to collaborate. And we've had restorative circles with staff and students to then, again, our focus is building that community. So, that was a challenge that I did not anticipate. However, it's something that we've discovered that's been an asset.

- Okay. And then now kind of reversing that question, if you could give some positive examples of how teaming has work. Radhika, why don't you just keep going? And then Kyle, you can follow up after her.

- Yeah, I'm a big proponent of teaming, so I have a lot of positives that came from that. The biggest positive for me is that students know that they belong here. There's somebody on the team. You know, we don't get along with all the adults that are here to support us, but we get along with some, and teaming allows students to build those relationships in a more meaningful way. With six different teachers, if the teachers, four of them we know talk to one another. I have the same four teachers as my classmates do. And that in itself allows us to, allows the students to feel comfortable to know that, you know, I get to start over every class period. But also if I'm having a tough time, my teacher's gonna have my back into the next class and let my next teacher know if there is something that they need to be mindful of. So, it has been amazing to create that sense of belonging. That's certainly a very large positive for us at the middle level in Waterford.

- Yeah, nothing so important than sense of belonging, huh? All right, Kyle?

- Yeah, similar to Radhika, our number one positive has been both the students and staff taking greater pride in ownership in the communities that they're building together, that they've built together, anywhere from like the fun stuff that's important in middle school, such as like the silly team names that they've created. And the students and staff work together to create those things and plan events as a team in order to connect these kids to not only to the school, but also to their team. We've seen a lot, a huge increase in school spirit, school pride, just from the teaming model. And then there's the, also the serious stuff, using the team concept to allow staff and students to address problems within the school as they arise in a collaborative manner where both the staff and the students take ownership over the solutions. Overall, it's made a world of difference for us. We know that, you know, it's the ideal model for middle schools.

- Awesome. So, wonderful examples from both of you. And obviously, these were probably the results we were hoping for when we started teaming. Scott, you were the one along with the teaching and learning team who decided to implement teaming in the middle school. So, can you talk a little bit about what was the impetus for starting it?

- Well, I would say came right from our community. When I first came here four and a half years ago, talking with parents, talking with students and teachers, we had some opportunity to better do our transitions from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school. And we know, I know that research shows that teaming helps with that, because the sense of belonging that was mentioned. Relationship, also relevance, rigor. So, I've always talked about relationship first, relevance to the what's going on around the students, and then, you can attack the rigor and that gets kids ready as they continue to move on and progress. But if you think about if you've ever had a middle school student, 11, 12, 13 year olds, there's a lot going on there and, you know, they're experiencing life and things are changing. So, we want a team belonging approach that will help benefit and support our students from the elementary as they're growing and getting ready into high school. And so certainly, that came from our community. We have made progress. We're gonna continue to make progress. But that transition from one level to the next has been critically important and something our community really wanted us to do a little bit better on.

- Okay, so we've heard from Scott about why teaming was implemented, but what about the teachers and the students affected by this decision? Scott headed to Pierce Middle School to get some feedback. So, let's play that clip.

- Well, hello Scott Lindberg, superintendent of Waterford School District here. And today, we are at Pierce Middle School, grade six, seven, and eight. And we have one of our students here and a teacher. I'm gonna have them introduce themselves, and then I've got a couple questions for them.

- Hello, my name is Kolbe Sudgen. I'm in seventh grade and I go to Pierce Middle School.

- All right, Kolbe, I gotta ask, what's your favorite subject?

- Math.

- Math, all right. Mr. Brown. Mr. Joe Brown, you teach here at Pierce, tell us a little bit about your time here and what do you teach?

- I've been here for seven years. I teach Math and Math Enrichment here in the seventh grade hallway.

- Okay, great. Well, you know, we're here today talking about teaming. That's something new we started here at the middle schools, both Pierce and Mason. And tell me a little bit about what are the benefits to teachers for teaming when you're talking about collaborating, lesson planning, and curriculum implementation.

- So, one of the major benefits I've seen so far is the strengthening the relationships between the students and the teachers. We come together. We talk about curriculum, how we can spread it across the board. We can help each other out. And then, the one-on-one relationships with the students as well. That's been a major benefit since we've implemented teaming within the school building.

- Yeah, one of the things, and of course I was in a middle school, I was a principal for 12 years, taught in a middle school for almost four. So, it's very near and dear to my heart. But middle school always talked about relationships, relevance and rigor. And you talked about that relationship. How do you meet the needs of our diverse learning population?

- So our team personally, we meet, well we do our weekly PLC meetings, but we talk on a daily basis. Like we meet in the hallways, between classes. If we have an issue, not even just an issue, if we just have to talk about certain students or what we need to better meet the needs of our students, we talk on a regular. We have a text message chain, we email, we call, we meet regularly to help meet the needs and the success of our students. Just constant communication.

- Yeah. So, how is that different now with teaming? How does that model work better than maybe it did before?

- We're more open. The relationships are open now. We're encouraged to share and to work with each other. And there's even a competitive nature, a friendly competitive nature between the other teams. So, and like we have competition throughout here. We have the Pierce Cup that we're competing for. The spirit, the school culture's up. I mean it's a great environment right now so.

- Yeah, environment and where kids feel connected that's first and most important. Kolbe, tell me a little bit about what do you think about the teaming approach?

- I think teaming is good because one reason is because I could be with people throughout the day that I feel comfortable with. And if I need help with anything, they can, I can always, if there's people in the other class, I can always ask them for help 'cause I feel comfortable with them.

- Yeah, that's great. Yeah, relationships, feeling comfortable with not only your classmates, but al also your teachers. Okay, Mr. Brown, another question for you. When we're talking about academics, the four of you teachers on a team working together, how do you ensure that academic success for all of the students on the team is paramount to everything you do every day?

- So, a great example this year is we've implemented DreamBox and Lexia and we spread that across both, you know, Math teacher to the Science teacher with DreamBox. And if they're not meeting their goals in the Math class with DreamBox, the Science teacher, I'll give a list and she'll make sure or try to make sure that those students get those five lessons. Same with the Language Arts teachers, Social Studies, they'll be on Lexia. If they don't meet those set goals, they'll hop on Lexia and social studies and do that. I do the same thing with missing assignments. If we have a lot of missing assignments in Math or Social Studies Science, they can do 'em in other classes if they have time like downtime. And our whole team is on the same page with that as long as they're not doing it during class time. So, we are all on the same page. We communicate that and the students know that as well. We have that structure and we accommodate to the students that need that help so.

- Excellent. So, all focused on relationships, relevance, rigor, helping students be successful in all they do. So again, we're here today at Pierce Middle School with Mr. Brown and Kolbe. Thank you to you both for spending some time with us today.

- Okay, great feedback and positivity from our teacher Joe Brown and student Kolbe, both from Pierce there, about the beauty of teaming and how it is working for them. As I stated earlier, our district is relatively new to teaming. We just started it at the middle schools last year. So with that being said, Radhika and Kyle, looking ahead, what do you envision for the future of teaming in the middle schools? And Scott, if you have any insight into this, that's great too. So, whoever wants to go first.

- Yeah, I'll go first. I'll make that decision for us. I, honestly, you know, I think teaming, every scenario has its pros and cons, right? Every scenario you have to give something to then gain something. And teaming does have its challenges, you know, creating a master schedule. These are all adult challenges by the way. You know, creating a master schedule, trying to make sure that we are able to meet the needs of all of our students with their specific plans, things like that. Those are challenges that us as adults we work through. And as long as we're committed to it for the students, there's very few giving up of anything that they have to do. It's really, really truly beneficial for students. I look forward to the commitment from our district. Teaming does take more effort, more time, more energy. There has to be a budget that's dedicated to teaming because it does take a lot more to put that into place because it is best practice. And so, I look forward to continuing that within our district and growing our staff and really engaging with our community and the neighborhood style that we have within our middle schools.

- [Sarah] Kyle, anything to add to that or did she sum it up?

- I mean, just that, you know, we already mentioned that it's what's best for kids, so that's research-based, and you know, it's best for staff as well. You know, I've seen improvement just in the staff's morale. And they knew that was what's best for staff so, or for students, so that's a huge commitment by the district and we really appreciate it.

- And Scott, district level, you kind of have that overreaching thought on features and programming.

- I love what I hear. It's best for students, it's best practice, and it's good for staff. The collaboration, working together, working with parents and students on your team. And that's just the best way to go. We get the results there that we're looking for. And it's just really the heart of the middle school being on a team, having that sense of belonging and working together for what's best for the whole school.

- So, it sounds like the implementation has gone well, but it is a commitment. So Scott, what would, what advice do you have for maybe other districts who are considering doing teaming?

- Well, you wanna, again, be committed. You wanna be providing professional development, both at the district level and the building level as was mentioned here. But also the time to work through some of those challenges that come up and the support there for the teachers to work with students and families to develop those norms, develop the way we do things, both on the team and in the school building. But again, I would say for any district, look at best practice. Look at what's best for kids and certainly that connectiveness to the school community, to the their teachers is so critically important. We know that. Just going to college, going to high school, any of the success comes from that commitment, that connectedness. And that's what we're talking about with teaming. And so, it's not always easy, but it's something that I would highly encourage any district to look at who isn't doing it already at the middle school level.

- Okay, there you have it. The ins and outs of middle school teaming. Radhika and Kyle, thank you for being here to provide insight on this topic. It sounds like some really innovative and comprehensive learning is taking place at the middle schools and a lot of that is because you are leading that practice. Also, thank you again to Pierce Middle School teacher Joe Brown and Pierce student Kolbe for their unique perspectives on the value of teaming. That is the end of this episode. Thank you for tuning in to our award-winning podcast, "WSD Voice." This podcast is brought to you by Waterford School District's Department of School and Community Services, and is produced by Video Production Coordinator Jane Tekiele. I am the host of this podcast, Sarah Davis, and you can find all episodes of "WSD Voice," on our website at or you can tune into 89.5 WHS or Radio Central Multicultural. We also invite you to subscribe to the podcast, which is available on Apple Podcast, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Podcast, and if you want to watch the recording, on our WSB YouTube channel. We so appreciate you listening today and encourage you to tune into future episodes of "WSD Voice," as we discuss topics geared toward inspiring, educating, and empowering our students, staff, alumni, and community to thrive.

Episode 1: Link Crew: Peer-to-Peer Mentorship at WSD
Published: October 2023



watch on our youtube channel   Download episode

In our first episode of Season 3, we explore Link Crew, a peer-to-peer mentorship program at Mott and Kettering high schools where juniors and seniors welcome 9th graders to ensure they have a smooth journey through high school.

Meg Grossnickle (Link Crew Coordinator/Language Arts Teacher, Kettering)

Ashlyn Campbell (12th grade, Kettering)

Mateo Santiago (11th grade, Kettering)

Andrew Miller (Link Crew Coordinator/Science Teacher, Mott)

Erick Guillen (12th grade, Mott)

Hosts: Sarah Davis, Director of Communications and Community Relations
Scott Lindberg, Superintendent

Producer: Jane Tekiele, Video Production Coordinator

- Hello, welcome to our third season of WSD Voice, a podcast focused on positive and informative news in Waterford School District. I am your host, Sarah Davis, the Director of Communications and Community Relations, and I'm here with Waterford School District Superintendent Scott Lindberg. Say hello to everyone, Scott.

- Hello everyone, good to have you all back in the studio with us today.

- How was your summer?

- Oh, fantastic, what summer? It was a long time ago.

- I know. I'm glad that you had some time to recharge. We did get some exciting news over here ourselves. We learned that this podcast was awarded a 2023 Publications and Digital Media Excellence Award from the National School Public Relations Association which recognizes exemplary work in school public relations throughout the country. And then just last week we learned that we won an award of merit for WSD Voice from the Michigan School Public Relations Association which is similar to the national group but instead focuses on school PR just in the state of Michigan. So our department was thrilled with both of those.

- Yeah, that's fantastic. You know, again, I think that the awards speak to the multiple ways that we wanna connect with our community, with our parents and really even with our students. So congratulations to you and your department and really the entire district that helps us with our communications.

- Thank you. So let's get to the topic of why we are here today. We are kicking off this season by discussing Link Crew, a program that both Mott and Kettering High Schools they have their upperclassmen welcome ninth graders to ensure that they have a smooth transition and journey into high school. And to help us with that discussion, we have Andrew Miller, a Science teacher at Mott High School and Meg Grossnickle, Language Arts teacher at Kettering, both of which are Link Crew program coordinators for their respective schools. So welcome to both of you to WSD Voice.

- Thanks for having me.

- Thank you.

- Andrew, we're gonna start with you. Can you explain what Link Crew is and if you know how long it's been a program in our school district for?

- So Link Crew, like you said it's a program designed to help sort of usher in the freshmen into high school, give them a warm welcome, moving in from middle school. As far as I know, Link Crew, so it's definitely been around. This is year seven since I started in the district and it's been a thing since I have been in the district. And actually my wife graduated from Mott in 2012 and she was a Link leader when she was here, so.

- Oh, very cool.

- Yeah, at least since 2012.

- Awesome. All right, Meg, can you explain how Link Crew works? Are students assigned to a specific mentor? Are all ninth graders included in the program? Just what are kind of the parameters for Link Crew?

- So starting in February, juniors and seniors can apply to be a part of the Link Crew program and we look through the applications, conduct interviews as necessary to select about 50 to 60 Link Crew leaders who will step up as mentors for the following year. We do training with them at the end of that year and then some training over the summer and then they are given a group of eight to 12 freshmen that they are responsible for. So those groupings we try to make just random and organic just so that they're making sure to connect with everybody at school and as new students join the Waterford Kettering community and I'm sure at Mott too, we assign them to a Link leader whether they are a freshman or a sophomore or junior just to make sure that they have that extra connection.

- Okay, wonderful. How do the 11th and 12th graders connect with the freshmen and what are some examples of some of the things the Link Crew may do throughout the year even beyond that first year to help students feel included?

- So our biggest event actually happens on the very first day of school with the freshman orientation program. So we do some extensive training, not only in teaching the Link leaders events to run with the freshmen but also how to work with the freshmen. What do you do when somebody is resistant to an idea? How can we be welcoming teaching them some of those leadership philosophies? So freshman orientation students will come in and they work with their Link leaders in a classroom for pretty much the entire morning. It's amazing. There's no teacher in the room, it's just the Link leaders leading students through events that not only are getting them to bond and to connect but are also designed to teach them what are some of the important skills that they need to be successful throughout the year. After freshman orientation we do a wide range of events. Largely we put it back on the Link leaders what are the needs of the freshmen class and how can we fulfill that need. So one need just recently that we had identified was that the freshmen were not attending football games. So we worked with the athletic department to get them wristbands to get into a game for free. And then the Link leaders taught them this is how you participate in the student section, this is what it means to be a part of the Kettering crazies. Throughout the year we'll do a lot of different programs. We do trunk or treat with freshmen that meet certain benchmarks. We'll do cocoa and cram before final exams teaching freshmen how to study 'cause for many of them this is the first time they're really studying for classes. And then we do a lot of daily activities where we're just checking in and connecting. Teachers and freshmen can say, "I would like a visit from my Link leader" and Link leaders will go and connect with those freshmen to help on a wide range of issues. It doesn't have to be academic, it could be social, emotional, behavioral, something that they need some advice on.

- I like that. Putting it back in the hands of the Link leaders to come up with actual ideas of things that they may have experienced and how to create programs that could help the new freshmen. Andrew, how do you ensure inclusivity in Link Crews so that all students feel welcome?

- Yeah, so inclusivity is at the core of what Link sort of represents for the school. So when we are selecting our leaders, typically we try to make it a very intentional effort to make our group of Link leaders look like the student body of the school. And so we're looking for, you know, kids from all sorts of cultural backgrounds, kids from, you know, every social group in the school, different academic skill levels, different interests and hobbies outside of school trying to get the entire range of what it means to be a courser or a captain into this group. That way when the freshmen come in they can see, you know not only are there people, upperclassmen who they can look up to that you know, maybe they can fall in their footsteps and you know, sort of shadow for the year. But also like we wanna make it a big point to them. Like you have a spot here and there are people here to support you in that spot. And we're so happy that you have found your spot at our school.

- All right, wonderful. Okay, we're gonna take a quick commercial break. And then we will be right back to learn more about the Link Crew.

- Hello Waterford School District, Superintendent Scott Lindberg here. Did you know that children can fall behind academically if they miss 10% of school days? Attendance and school is so crucial for student success and wellbeing which is why the Waterford School District has implemented a Waterford attendance success program to help educate our students and parents about why going to school matters. Attending school support students social, emotional and physical wellbeing and provide students with opportunities to learn, achieve and to reach out for their dreams. Find out more about our program on our website, That's because here at Waterford School District, every day counts.

- Okay, we are back again with Meg Grossnickle from Kettering and Andrew Miller from Mott discussing our high school's amazing Link Crew program.

- Meg, peer mentorship is at the heart of this program. Why is this type of mentorship so important for our students?

- I think we know that students do better when they feel connected to a community. And so this provides a connection from the very first day of school. Their very first experience is, hey here are not just teachers but here are other students who want you to be successful and who want you to be here. And I think that relationship just is essential as we go throughout the year. We're not only providing freshmen though with that support for success, but we're also empowering our upperclassmen to learn those communication and leadership skills that will make them not just successful in college or career plans but really are so essential to every single relationship that they will have. So to see those relationships form and those student mentors really step into that role is also an amazing thing.

- And Andrew, what are the positive effects that you see from the results of this program?

- Well, my personal opinion about probably the most positive impact that Link has on the school as a whole is just getting the freshman class involved and incorporated into the school. Like I can't tell you how many freshmen I teach primarily freshmen here at Mott. So I can't tell you how many kids have come up to me and said, hey, I joined this club because my Link leader showed me that it was a thing. And you know, I really like video games for example. So I joined video game club here or I, you know, was unsure about if I should try out for the baseball team but my Link leaders are on the baseball team and he encouraged me to join. So getting those freshmen involved in the school right from the get-go and showing them all the opportunities that they have here that's probably the coolest thing to me. That's probably the biggest impact that I see on a day-to-day from the leaders.

- Okay, Andrew, can you give an example of Link Crew working at its finest?

- Yeah, so one like specific example that I think about all the time really was I think the first year that I was involved in Link Crew here, there was a kid class of 2020, freshman class of 2022. And both were very, very into the performing arts here. She was a little shyer, he was very much not shy and she like to see the mentorship that he gave her throughout the year and then, you know, watching them put on shows together for the next two years that was probably like, first of all phenomenal performances in and of themselves. But outside of that, like they have continued that relationship even beyond high school. Like I still see them performing in plays together to this day. Like they, I think the show that they just put on over in Pontiac was a Cinderella show and they were both starring in this show and they started because he encouraged her to get involved in the drama club here at Mott. Like I think like the ability to build a relationship as a freshman and then carry that way beyond high school. I hear about stuff like that all the time and I think that like that warms my heart so much. It's so cool to see.

- Yeah, that's a great example. And also a nod to our amazing performing arts programming that we have here for Waterford School District. Meg, do you have an example?

- I think there's so much power in the day-to-day interactions when we see those individual conversations and having freshmen ask and request to have their Link leaders come and see them really speaks to just how important that is, that sense of connection and community. Specifically an example that comes to mind actually just happened today, we had a freshman student who was feeling very nervous about homecoming, didn't have anybody to go with. There was a lot of, you know, misconceptions about that whole thing. You don't have to have a date, blah, blah, blah. And so one of our Link leaders asked her freshman to come with her group and she's like, I'm going with a group of friends, why don't you come with me? And that is nothing that we ask the Link leader to do. That was just something she saw an opportunity, she thought about what would she have liked when she was a freshman and she just totally stepped up and was incredibly supportive of that freshman in that moment.

- Yeah, that's super nice. What a great example. Meg, how do you ensure that the mentorship remains effective and meaningful for both the Link Crew team but then also the new student throughout the entire school year?

- So we one, reach out to teachers and ask for ideas. What are the needs that they are seeing? How can we help meet those needs? We also survey the freshmen and the Link leaders throughout the year. So we have a Link Crew class. It's not a requirement of a Link leader to be in the class but it certainly is helpful and they can then look through that survey information from both the freshmen and other Link leaders and teachers to figure out what are our next steps? How do we make sure that we're being effective in our check-ins? We have a lot of different protocols for checking in with freshmen and for reporting back what happened. But a lot of it is just being open to the suggestions and open to the ideas. What are the freshmen saying they're needing? What's the feel in the building? What are the survey results telling us?

- So listening. Okay, we've heard a lot from our two Link Crew program coordinators but let's hear what our students have to say. Scott recently headed out to interview some of our Link Crew mentors to get their perspective on the program. Let's listen to Kettering's interview first.

- Hello, Scott Lindberg here, Waterford Superintendent. We're here at Kettering High School to talk with two of our students who are involved in the Link Crew here at Kettering. So Ashlyn, why don't you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your experience with Link Crew.

- I'm Ashlyn Campbell. I'm a senior here at Kettering and I've been in Link Crew for the past two years and I really enjoy connecting with the freshmen and the people here at Kettering. Just everyone, I think it's a great program and a way to stay connected to the school.

- Yeah, that's great, great. And Mateo, tell us a little bit about yourself and your connection here with the Link Crew.

- So I'm Mateo Santiago. I am in 11th grade. This is my first year doing Link Crew. I'm liking it so far. It's really fun connecting with all the kids and just letting 'em know that high school is not a bad thing.

- Yeah, it's not a bad thing. It's a good place, exciting four years. Talk to us a little bit about the most effective strategies in connecting with our new freshmen, our ninth graders.

- For freshman orientation especially the first day of school, we have a series of events that we always do in each classroom. Each kid we take them around a tour of the school, which really helps them. And I think like the activities that make them moving and like we have one that we throw a ball around. That one's just fun and makes you laugh and everyone has a good time with that one.

- It's a good experience and we want them to be comfortable. We talked a little bit about your first days of school and the relationships with teachers. How do you encourage the ninth grade freshmen students to be comfortable in the new high school setting?

- Just going out there and trying new things. Honestly, like it's good to just talk. I mean, I know it's like, oh I'm nervous but just going out there and letting them know like, hey I like this stuff, this is my name. Just things you like and stuff like that. I think it really helps just connect with them a little bit better.

- Yeah, and let me ask just a final question. How do you bridge the gap for the rest of the year? What does this look like with the Link Crew for you and the freshmen the rest of the year?

- So for the rest of the year we do like check-ins. So we have our like big thing which is the orientation and then after that we go into like check-ins like once a week. And then we just like plan out like if you're not doing too well, we're like okay these are the things we could like work on. And then if you're doing really good we're just like, hey you're doing great, keep up the good work we'll see you at the next week. You know, just give them pointers on what could they could be doing better or you know, stuff like that. What they could carry on doing.

- Yeah, great. Ashlyn, do you think you would've liked the Link Crew or was the Link Crew here when you came to Kettering?

- Yeah, it was a little different because it was online and everything but they really helped me when I first came in the school and adding on to Mateo's question, we are now starting these things like it's once a month each, like every freshman of every class and everything come in one time an hour throughout the month. And just everyone's in there and we have like a new thing that we're gonna teach them about like the easier things that you wouldn't think about teaching but they don't know like how to navigate MiStar and everything like that. So we really think that's gonna help our freshmen this year.

- Well thank you so much, Ashlyn, Mateo, thank you for helping our students, your colleagues here at Kettering feel a part of the Kettering High School and being a captain. Thanks so much.

- All right, great information on Link Crew coming from Ashlyn and Mateo at Kettering. Now let's listen to our Mott mentor.

- Scott Lindberg, Superintendent of Waterford Schools here at Mott High School. And I have senior Erickk. And I would like to just to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself.

- My name is Erick, I'm a senior here at Waterford Mott. This is my second year in Link Crew and after school I play tennis and I'm in marching band.

- So tell us a little bit about your mentoring. When did you make, tell us about a positive difference that you made in a freshman's transition here to Mott High School.

- Well, on the first day of school when we got our groups of freshmen, I saw that one of my freshmen had a locker that was like three or four lockers down from mine and he was having trouble opening his locker. So I wanted to help him with that. And I didn't want to, you know, just open it for him and then leave him confused the next time he has to open his locker. So I went to the locker next to him, asked if I could help and did the combination. And we did it at the same time, side by side. And then we got him to open his locker and then he faced another problem because he wasn't used to the thin lockers that we have at Mott. So I was trying to help him organize his school supplies like I do to make it all fit and yeah. And I'm reminded of it every day because his locker is right next to mine so.

- Oh, that's great, so good location. So what are some of the challenges that freshmen have transitioning from middle school to high school? Things that you keep in mind that you can help the new freshmen with?

- Yeah, well the freshmen, they used to be eighth graders so they're used to being like the oldest in the middle school, like the most knowledgeable about where everything is. So they're not really used to like everybody else helping them. They're used to helping others. So they're a little hesitant receiving help at first but as long as you're know personable and nice, they're actually very welcoming when you actually do try to help.

- Well excellent. It's so important to welcome our freshmen in. Erick, thank you for all you do on Link Crew.

- Yep.

- And great representation. Again coming from Erick over at Mott talking about his experience as commissioner of Link Crew. Thank you to all of our students for agreeing to participate in this podcast because there really is nothing more important than getting your perspective. Andrew, for our listeners, is there any way that the broader educational community can contribute to or support Link Crew?

- Yeah, we're always open to, you know, broader community support just in terms of like getting support for the events that we put on throughout the year. So orientation's our first big one. And then after that we have things like smaller events, Freshman Tailgate that we try to put on every year. We have our cocoa and cram that we put on every year. So donations are great if we get them. Outside of that, simply encouraging freshmen to participate in these events is a huge support for the program because these leaders, they put a lot of time and effort into planning the events, into training for the events. So getting freshmen to participate, getting some buy-in from them, it goes a very, very long way for us.

- Scott, this is an amazing program.

- It sure is.

- And for those who don't know we also have similar programming at the middle school called WEB which stands for Where Everybody Belongs. So peer mentorship is a very important piece of this district. How do you see Link Crew fitting in with this in our strategic plan?

- Well, the strategic plan is about having everybody involved, inclusivity. And this program really speaks to that. You've got the peer mentoring going on and students that have walked in their shoes before and so they've experienced all of the challenges of the transitions and the celebrations and so they can speak to them and their voice, right? Because they've been there and they're there with them. And to have that mentorship right in the building where they're connecting with 'em, I just think it's awesome. And talking with the students in those interviews we saw that as well.

- Absolutely. Well thank you Scott, and again thank you to our two Link Crew leaders, Megan, Andrew. As well as our Link Crew student representatives, Ashlyn, Mateo, and Erick. The work each of you are doing in this district to make newcomers feel welcome and connected is very important and we appreciate everything that you're doing. So that's the end of this episode. Thank you for tuning in to our now award-winning show, WSD Voice. This podcast is brought to you by Waterford School District's Department of School and Community Services and is produced by video production coordinator Jane Tekiele. I am the host of this podcast, Sarah Davis and you can find all episodes of WSD Voice on our website at Or you can tune in to 89.5 WAHS or Radio Central Multicultural. We also invite you to subscribe to the podcast which is available on Apple Podcast, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Podcast. And if you wanna watch the recording on our WSD YouTube channel, we so appreciate you listening today and encourage you to tune in to future episodes of WSD Voice as we discuss topics geared toward inspiring, educating and empowering our students, staff, alumni and community to thrive.