Students take skills to national stage

From Dallas ISD Staff Reports

Quick! Let me hear the speech you’d give if you’d just won an Oscar, or what you’d say if you met the president. Tell me the winning words a coach would use to rally his losing team. Answer a few questions to land the job of your dreams, or give me your best pitch for a children’s vitamin commercial.

These are some of the pop challenges faced by fourth and fifth graders at Truett Elementary School who competed in the school’s Amazing Shake Competition on Feb. 19.

Six Truett teachers met with students after school every week to teach them professional skills and prepare them to compete at the national level. Photo courtesy of Dallas ISD

“The contest places an emphasis on teaching students manners, discipline, respect and professional conduct,” said Truett’s assistant principal, Elisa Morrissey. For the in-school competition, she said, community leaders served as judges and role models. “Through different scenarios, the students demonstrate their leadership and professional skills, such as how to give a proper handshake, how to provide high-quality answers in interviews, and how to maintain composure under pressure. It’s about connecting students with community stakeholders and having them build that confidence and voice.”

Fourth-grader Madison Reed was the winner of the in-school competition. Then, last weekend, the top three fifth-grade performers competed in Atlanta, in the national Amazing Shake Competition at the Ron Clark Academy, which originated the competition for students in grades five through eight. They met with judges and participated in interviews and scenarios, including a “White House Press Conference” and “Tonight Show interview.” Additionally, they role-played as ESPN commentators, real estate agents and restaurant managers. “We are beyond proud of our students’ courage to have a voice and confidence to stand in front of people to speak,” Morrissey said. “Go, Truett Tigers!”

The trip to Atlanta came thanks to Dallas ISD’s Innovation Engine grant to the school. After receiving the grant, the school created an Amazing Shake club, and six teachers met with students after school every week to teach them professional skills and prepare them to compete at the national level.

Truett, an ACE school, is the first school in the district to have this opportunity, said Damien Stovall, executive director for ACE (Accelerating Campus Excellence) schools.

Truett became an ACE school last year during the pandemic, said Principal Rocio Bernal. 

“What that really means is we’re accelerating our students’ journey in education to ensure that we are able to fill some gaps. 

“Through a program like Amazing Shake, we’re able to provide new opportunities for our students to shine in other ways beyond academics. 

“They’re so courageous,” the principal said of the students, “to go through these different scenario challenges, to talk to absolute strangers to sell a product, to be interviewed or imagine what they’d say if they met the president. They had to stay composed. What fifth grader does that? This experience will last them a lifetime.”