ILWACO — As the group of Hilltop Middle School students raced down a muddy trail at Black Lake on their mountain bikes recently, it’s not hard imagine they may have been thinking to themselves, “Hilltop rocks!”

It just so happens, the administration agrees.

Hilltop Middle School ROCKS is a new program being used at the school this year, as an incentive program for students to do their best everyday. ROCKS is an acronym which stands for things the school is trying to promote — Responsibility, Orderliness, Cooperation, Kindness and Safety.

“The educators and all staff are working to teach positive behaviors and recognize when students are doing the right thing,” said first-year principal Mark Westley. “The approach is proactive and not reactive.”

Positive intervention

According to Westley, the school has embraced the concept of Positive Behavior Intervention and Support. Around the school are posters reminding students of the behavioral expectations (ROCKS).

When staff “catch” a student being good, they can be awarded “Fisherbucks,” a school currency that can be redeemed at the school store for things like school swag, school supplies, snacks, etc. The staff can use an app on their phones to log the positive activity.

“The school started with a team of teachers and staff to develop expectations in all areas of the school,” Westley explained. “They came up with the acronym to emphasize (those) life skills.”

The program also features “mini lessons” on those topics from Dean of Students Cheri Lloyd and counselor Valerie Clementi, who visit the classrooms around the school.

Enrichment Day

Also part of the program is the once a month elective class time for students who have minimal or no discipline issues for that month.

The monthly enrichment day gives students the opportunity to attend things like a yoga class at a local studio, mountain biking at Black Lake, or an archery class.

The enrichment time, usually toward the end of each month, goes for 90 minutes. Students from each class rotate picking first, so as to give everyone a shot at a space for each elective.

Students who do not qualify either spend that time in ICU (a homework completion program started last year), or in the “solutions room” if they were excluded due to prior behavioral issues.

Each month, the teachers and volunteers who lead the enrichment time select different activities for students to choose from.

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