Operations Manager Lana Mueller 

In May, Lawrence Township Public Schools was awarded first place in the Video Category of the New Jersey School Public Relations Association 2016 Communications Awards Program for a three-minute video entitled, “Thank You.”

In June 2015, operations manager Lana Mueller and technology supervisor Steven Prentiss created “Thank You,” a nine-minute video montage, later shortened to three minutes, as a way of thanking the teachers and staff. The montage shows students in all seven schools talking about the special ways their teachers have made them feel special. It includes boys and girls of all ages and ethnicities.

Mueller does not recall the exact moment of inspiration for the video, but she remembers seeing something similar from another school on a slightly different topic. She submitted the video to NJSPRA as a way to brainstorm public relations ideas within the greater schools community.

“Each school was involved. The principals selected some students,” Mueller said. “We wanted diversity. All grade levels were represented to show appreciation for our staff.”

Technology Supervisor Steven Prentiss
Technology Supervisor Steven Prentiss

The video was presented last fall when the teachers and staff returned to school.

Meuller and Prentiss met with the principals seven different times for feedback and to identify students. Prentiss, Mueller said, was particular about the sound and lighting in the video, which was shot last spring and edited by Prentiss last summer.

Because filming took place at the end of the school year, Mueller noted there were “sentimental feelings” in the students’ responses, particularly with a redheaded elementary school student with glasses at the end of the video who says, “I would like to thank my teacher for helping me with my multiplication because she is a really great teacher. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to third grade.”

The timing also allowed Prentiss to use the summer to edit the video. Though he is busy in the summer, time is more flexible than it is during the school year. Mueller noted that while filming, Prentiss was very focused on the details. In her opinion, being that meticulous shows in the quality of the end product. “He has the equipment and the knowledge, particularly with lighting and sound,” she said.

The NJSPRA has different categories for awards ranging from videos to print. The judges are professors in Rowan University’s public relations masters program, which Mueller added “is particularly nice.” John Draper of the NJSPRA recommended shortening the video to three minutes, and gave guidelines on where to shorten it. Mueller then submitted it to the National School Public Relations Association where it received an honorable mention.

Mueller said it was great to work with students throughout the whole process, since she usually works in the administration building and doesn’t get to interact with the kids often. When she is in the schools, it is usually to take pictures, not to work with the students in the same way teachers and staff do on a daily basis. “The kids were wonderful to work with,” she said.

The messages from the students were thank yous to teachers in general, not to specific educators. In general, the younger students thanked the teachers for concrete things, like teaching them math and how to write. One elementary school boy thanked his teacher for always supplying water to the class. The older students thanked the teachers for preparing them for life beyond school and supporting them along their paths.

A poised Lawrence High School girl thanked teachers for “really making me interested in a subject I might not have been interested in before because I know I can give them credit for kindling an interest I might pursue in the future as a career. If they hadn’t made it so easy to learn and fun to learn I would not have been so fascinated by the subject.”

A girl from Lawrence Intermediate Student said, “I used to get in trouble a lot when I was in elementary school, but now I’m just better—way better.”

A middle school girl said, “I can see how math applies to life. I know how to format an essay now because that’s what we were taught,” while another enthused, “thank you for helping me out during the school year and picking me up every time I am down.” This is followed by a high school boy thanking his teachers for “getting me out of my comfort zone,” as he cites shooting videos of “us dancing around like fools.”

One high school boy, who lost his home in a fire during his freshman year, thanked his teachers for giving him “an understanding of life outside of school and outside of Lawrenceville and what the world will be like.” He thanked them for being very supportive when he lost his home.

The nine-minute long video can be found by searching “LTPS Opening Day 2015” on YouTube, and the three-minute short video can be found by searching “Opening Day 2015 – Thank You LTPS Laptop.”

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