Pay it forward: How a Guilford County school uses the ‘Falcon Plate’ to keep appreciation moving through the school

What's Right with Our Schools

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Ginny Taylor thought her Monday morning was going to be just like any other. Turns out, it’s one the teacher’s assistant will remember forever.

“When I got to my classroom, I saw the ‘Falcon Plate’ on my desk and read a very beautiful email,” she said.

The “Falcon Plate” at Southeast Guilford High is the school’s version of the employee of the month. Mark Seagraves says it’s a great way to recognize every employee. 

“I guess the best part about the recognition is it’s peer-to-peer,” he said. “So the person who previously holds the plate is the one who gets to pass it to the next person within the building.”

You never know where the plate will end up next because it’s not predictable.

“This transcends throughout the school. And it’s not just for the teachers as for our entire staff, the custodians, the lunch cafeteria folks, the TA’s in the building, the front office staff. And I think it’s really neat when someone in the math department sees someone in the EC department or in a cafeteria doing something great or recognizes the great things that they do for our kids and our community and our school,” Seagraves said.

Melissa Rich, the school’s media specialist, was recognized almost two years ago.

She says she was shocked because it was at a very hard time in her life. Her husband was in the hospital fighting cancer. Her daughter was getting ready to graduate and she oversaw all the graduation activities. But she was presented the plate by those who saw more in her, people she calls her family.

“They’re my family. They’re part of my family, and that’s how we operate with everybody,” said Rich. “I feel like that’s how we operate with everybody of once you’re here for a little bit, you kind of find your place in the family. Everybody has a different place in the family. My boss, my principal was calling me and saying, ‘What part of your job do you need me to do?’ I don’t think many bosses would do that.”

The plate has been in circulation for a few years now, and while some of the names may have faded,  the stories behind them that are still told.

“The stories that make the school tick, so to speak,” Seagraves said. “Everybody that has been on the plate or received a plate, they play an integral part in making the school a special place for our kids.”

Melissa remembers who she gave the plate. 

“I gave it to Ginger Newell. Ginger is one of our teacher’s assistants and our OCS class. And what she does with those kids on a daily basis is phenomenal,” she said.

But for Ginny the pressure is on.

“Within minutes, I already had all of these people floating through my head on who am I going to give this to next?” Taylor said. “And there’s so many wonderful people here. So that’s going to be the hardest part.”

It’s a sure bet that whoever receives it will hold it near and dear.

“We say here once a Falcon always a Falcon. And so this is another way to leave their mark behind on the school and on the staff,” Seagraves said.

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