"It takes a village to raise a child."
The well-known proverb couldn’t be more true for your school community and the “all-in” spirit of its employees. Nearly everyone has the potential to mold a student’s educational experience, which means school culture isn’t just about who teaches your students; it’s also about the sense of community that exists among your constituents.
Your school’s staff, trustees, parents, and alumni all play an important role in school culture, so it’s critical your web presence reflects how everyone works toward creating an engaging, safe, and supportive environment for students.
How do you showcase your community’s sense of personality, spirit, and character online? We’re glad you asked! Here are tips for building a sense of community in your school online:
Celebrate Your Support Staff and Non-Teaching Faculty, Too!
Showcasing who is influencing your students directly is essential — that means faculty, coaches, and advisors, but that also includes the maintenance crew, the dining hall staff, resource officers, the bus drivers...there are a number of essential staff positions who work tirelessly to help care for students outside the classroom. With a front-row seat into student life at mealtimes, between classes, or during drop-off, they all play a crucial, behind-the-scenes role in the successful operations of your school.
But too often they are overlooked, taking a backseat to faculty roles. Consider removing the silo between “staff” and “faculty” and elevate a traditional employee directory by using photos of employees “in their element,” or images that can tell a bigger story. Photography that goes beyond standard headshots adds another level of personality that can bring a directory to life!
Crane School does just that with its “Staffulty Directory.” Each employee profile has a secondary photo that reveals a fun, adventurous, and inviting side of their faculty and staff. You get a real sense of who they are as people, not just employees, and it makes you want to keep exploring their directory.
Lakeside School in WA put their employees in the spotlight this summer with a #facultyfeature theme for their Instagram account, sharing favorite vacation spots, summer reading lists, and adventures while away from campus. It shows a more personal side of their faculty and staff, and yes, they like to have fun, too!
Kents Hill School in Maine called out their new director of college counseling, who (despite the summer heat) was wearing their mascot costume to build some school spirit. “While she enjoyed playing the role,” the Instagram post said, “what she really excels at is finding the right fit for our student scholars.” Calling out your non-teaching employees on social media is a great way to expand the definition of your community and help put names to faces (even when they’re behind a mask).
Introduce Your Board and Leadership
Your board brings together a group of committed professionals with specific areas of expertise and knowledge that provides guidance, financial support, and who drive home your mission. But they’re frequently separated from the daily grind, and despite their massive influence on your school, they may feel like distant members of your leadership team.
Having a webpage dedicated to your board can help pull back the curtain and remove some of the mystery as to how its members assist the school while showcasing the diversity of voices behind your institution’s strategic support system.
Frankfurt International School does just that with bios and headshots of their trustees, descriptions of their respective committees, and even links to board meeting minutes and frequently asked questions behind their portal. Providing these resources can help create a sense of transparency within your community.
Highlight Parent Culture with a Page for Parents
The parent social scene is an important channel for families to connect with one another and widen their circle of friends. It’s also a factor when parents are choosing schools for their family: Will I make new friends? What’s the parent community like?
Web pages that detail parent culture or formal groups like the Parent Association help showcase community involvement and convey how parents can support your school’s mission by enhancing the student experience through programming and volunteer activities.
It’s not unusual to find parents “giving back” to schools by volunteering their time and expertise with guest presentations to classes, assisting with an event, or just lending a helping hand around campus, so be sure to show those efforts on your site with a parent page.
The Mead School in CT features a page for its Parent Association, which details ways to get involved, upcoming meetings for parents, and the various committees that help run school events.
The school also offers the Parent Zone, an online resource for families to catch up on school news, stay connected over social media, browse the calendar and school store, and access important announcements. It’s updated regularly, so there’s always fresh content that’s organized by grade levels, which makes it easy for parents to see what’s relevant to them.
Acknowledge Your Amazing Alumni
Your graduates may have left campus, but they’re still integral constituents that help mold the school’s legacy and shape the future of your community. Highlighting your alumni family and their engagement with the current culture reinforces the impact of your school’s education and the bond between generations.
Savannah Country Day School really takes an extra step to honor their former students with an alumni page just for them. With information about upcoming alumni events, profiles of award recipients, and links to their alumni association, you get a clear understanding that school spirit remains with their community long after graduation. SCDC also does a great job at showing the love not just for their alumni family, but also seniors and faculty with their own branded hashtag #SavannahCountryDayConnected. ❤️
Director of Alumni Relations Amy Pinckney shares on the site, “Our goal is for Country Day alumni to remain a part of our everyday community. Our students and teachers are what make Country Day the leading provider of educational excellence, but it is the success of our alumni that proves we are getting the job done right!”
Celebrating your school community doesn’t stop with faculty, alumni, staff, or board members — check out this handy list of days to celebrate and recognize additional members of your school! Note: some of these days vary year-to-year, so be sure to double-check your calendar!
- National Custodian Day- October 2
- National Coaches Day — October 6
- Substitute Educator's Day - 3rd Friday of November during American Education Week
- National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day — January 9
- National School Counseling Week — The first full week of February
- School Bus Driver Appreciation Day — February 22
- National Librarian Day — April 16
- National Teacher Appreciation Week — first week in May
- School Lunch Hero Day — May 7
- National School Nurse Day — May 12
Wausau School District in WI has been taking to Twitter to show some love to their non-teaching staff. They’re regularly posting on social media, welcoming new employees to campus, thanking staff for their hard work, and showing appreciation for all the roles outside the classroom.
"Here in the Wausau School District, we pride ourselves on advancing student learning, achievement, and success,” shared Diana White, WSD’s coordinator of communications & marketing.
“To do those things and do them well, it truly takes a village,” White added. “That village includes every single person who either works for or volunteers within our school district...So how do we thank them? We highlight the great work that they do day-in and day-out on our social media pages and/or our website. Not only do they get a well-deserved ‘thank you’ but our families and community members get to know the incredible employees, volunteers, and partners we have. Our families, staff, and community members respond well to these posts and they often become our most popular ones."
Strengthen the bond between the current community members and your external audiences by using your website and digital presence to showcase not just your teaching faculty, but other essential members of your community. Celebrating a wider network of dedicated employees and constituents is a valuable strategy that builds your mission, spirit, and culture.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Web and Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, story-telling, coffee, and creating content that connects.