Utrust - Appreciating, Developing, and Supporting School Staff

Appreciating, Developing, and Supporting School Staff! click here to learn more

What is the UAP?


Why an Appreciation Program?

“Appreciation is a basic skill.  It is every bit as important to a student’s success as any subject studied in school.” Dan Tollett, Utrust Administrator

  • Employees make a difference in students’ lives every day and students need to be aware of that fact.
  • Appreciation creates better work and learning environments.
  • Appreciation is a basic skill that all students need to succeed in life.
  • People don’t know they are appreciated unless someone tells them.
  • Structured and intentional appreciation ensures everyone is honored.
  • Showing appreciation is a vital, yet often overlooked aspect of strong leadership.
  • Students are given an opportunity to develop leadership skills.

The Utrust Appreciation Program helps students and their school communities recognize and show appreciation to school employees who make a difference in the lives of students each day.  Utrust provides a model for schools and school districts to use to recognize and celebrate employees. The model divides employees into eight groups and establishes student leadership teams to actively honor and recognize the employees in each group. [peekaboo name=”eap” onshow=”Click to hide” onhide=”Read more”][peekaboo_content name=”eap”]

The program uses student leadership in the form of a G-Force (G for Gratitude) and an A-Team (A for appreciation). The G-Force promotes gratitude throughout the entire year on a weekly basis through enlisting the help of fellow classmates to show appreciation through verbal thanks or an act of kindness to a specific employee.  The A-Team has the responsibility to plan and conduct a celebration on each of  8 designated appreciation days involving both the student body and the school community. The program does not take away from instructional time.

Packets Provided by Utrust. Utrust provides a packet of ideas and activities specifically designed for elementary, middle and high schools for each appreciation day throughout the school year.  The packets are designed around a theme for each celebration.  They contain songs specifically written for the appreciation day, sample artwork for posters, announcements for students to make over the intercom, and ideas for activities students may use to celebrate the day. 

Utrust provides a packet for the system coordinator. This packet includes a resolution for the school board to adopt, a news release, artwork for the system website, and suggestions for presentations to the board about the appreciation day celebrations.

Utrust also provides a packet of materials for G-Force members which identifies their role in the appreciation program including weekly and specific monthly appreciation day activities.

What Does the Program Do?

The Utrust Appreciation Program cultivates in students the recognition and expression of appreciation to those who make a difference in their lives. The Program ensures that all employees in the school are honored and appreciated for what they do to make their school a better place to work and learn.

The tremendous emphasis on high-stakes testing has brought enormous pressure upon school employees accompanied by unprecedented criticism of teachers and other school employees.  The morale of school employees has plummeted with the growth of the widespread opinion, especially among politicians, that the quality of a school is determined by test scores.

Aristotle cautioned us that nothing could be farther from the truth when he said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

The Utrust Appreciation Program seeks to educate the heart by encouraging students to care about others and to show that they care. The expression of appreciation improves morale and lifts the spirits of school employees who desperately need to be reassured that their work is noticed and appreciated.

The broader aim of the Utrust Appreciation Program is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in every student and staff member and to make school a place where, as Edwards describes it, everyone lifts and everyone is lifted.1

Benefits of Utrust Appreciation Program include:

1.  Makes Employees and Students Feel Appreciated.  Traditionally, school employees receive surprisingly little praise.  When this program was implemented in one county school system, a bus driver said, “I have been driving a school bus for 25 years and this is the first time that anyone has ever taken the time to say thank you.” Employees want and need to feel appreciated and the Utrust Appreciation Program model ensures that everyone hears the message that he or she counts and plays a role in the success of the school.

Utrust has another component to the Appreciation Program which is aimed at encouraging teachers to show appreciation to students (called TAPS). It is so important for the entire school community to jump in and be active participants in cultivating an attitude of gratitude within their schools.  

2.  Improves Morale. In addition to being under appreciated, school employees are traditionally underpaid. This program does not seek to change their pay but by being certain that employees know they are appreciated has resulted in changed attitudes in employees from bus drivers to principals. It seeks to improve employee morale by respecting what they do and making them feel appreciated.

3. Motivates Employees to Do Their Best. Employees want to know their work is noticed and appreciated. When students and staff identify things employees do to make the school a better place, their performance is enhanced. A school custodian in Hawkins County said, “I try to do a good job every day but knowing that I am appreciated makes me want to do an even better job.”

4. Motivates Students to Do Their Best.  Students want to know teachers care about them.  When teachers make the effort to identify specific things they appreciate about a student, the student performs better in school, feels better about him/herself and is more likely to express appreciation to others. 

5.  Helps Develop Student Leadership.   The Utrust Appreciation Program provides opportunities for students to lead in carrying out projects and activities that show appreciation to individuals and groups of school employees. Through planning and organizing activities and directing their implementation, students develop valuable leadership skills. In addition to the A-Team (A for Appreciation) planning and coordinating all activities for each appreciation day, the Utrust model uses a G -Force (G for Gratitude) to lead in transforming the culture of the school by promoting the expression of appreciation on a weekly basis. The G-Force ensures that appreciation is expressed, not only on appreciation days, but throughout the school year.

6. Improves Attendance. People like to go to places where they feel appreciated. The attendance of both students and school employees improves when they are recognized for what they do and when they feel appreciated.

7. Cultivates an Attitude of Gratitude. Students become aware of the contributions that school employees, individually and collectively, make in helping schools be better places for them to grow and learn. Their attitude of gratitude carries over into their lives at home and in their community. The Utrust Appreciation Program suggests numerous ways for students to express genuine appreciation to school employees. The expressed appreciation help both the student grow in sensitivity and appreciation and are meaningful to the employee.

8. Provides an Opportunity to Develop Skills and Showcase Talents. In preparing for each appreciation day, students are given opportunities to showcase artistic talent through the design and production of signs, posters, banners, cards and other creative ways. It gives them a chance to make announcements or short speeches, to sing, act in skits, write poems or jingles and deliver messages of appreciation in creative and dramatic ways. It challenges them to serve as reporters, photographers or videographers to publicize appreciation day activities.

While Utrust provides sufficient ideas and suggestions for each employee appreciation day, students are consistently challenged to exercise their own creativity by going beyond what is suggested to personalize messages for a particular employee or employee group.

9.  Engages the Community in a Positive Manner. Leaders in every community recognize and appreciate the contribution schools and their employees make but they seldom adequately express that appreciation. Providing opportunities for parents and the community at large to acknowledge their appreciation significantly increases participation in such an effort. Hearing appreciation expressed from parents and community presents a major boost to school employees.

10.  Increases Positive Publicity and Public Support for Your School. Schools and school systems in the Utrust Appreciation Program have found that local newspapers welcome stories about students doing things to recognize and express appreciation to school employees. Positive publicity increases dramatically as a result of this program.


School District Members of Utrust

How To Join

All members of Utrust can access the Appreciation Program packets and activities completely free! Your membership in the UAP is covered by your membership in Utrust. All you have to do to start taking advantage of this fantastic program is follow a few simple steps. It’s as easy as 1.2.3. so jump in and be a part of the difference that the UAP makes.

School systems just beginning the UAP need to select a system coordinator and give them these 3 things to do to get registered and then start enjoying the difference gratitude makes!!

  1. Contact us at 615-714-4190 or by email djohnson@utrust.org
  2. Set up a 1 hour meeting between your principals and Utrust staff
  3. Set up a meeting with your school coordinators and principals


School Districts Not Members of Utrust

How to Join & What it Costs

If you are interested in participating in this program, please contact Utrust at 615-714-4190 or by e-mail at djohnson@utrust.org.