While students stayed out of school for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, their teachers at Western Wayne School Corporation listened to a motivational speaker.

Jon Gordon spoke to more than 50 staff members about being positive and making change happen.

“I predict if this team works on it, enrollment will be up and everybody will be talking about this as a turnaround school district,” he said at the end of a morning-long workshop on Jan. 15 in the Lincoln Middle/High School cafeteria. “If anyone can do it, it’s the people in this room.”

Gordon is the author of 15 books and travels the country conducting seminars and workshops. He’s appeared on national TV shows. Western Wayne Superintendent Andy Stover saw him at a national Boys and Girls Clubs meeting last year and invited him to provide an in-service in Cambridge City.

“I wanted him to boost morale and help our people support one another. It’s a good way to start a new semester,” Stover said.

Gordon peppered his talk with personal stories and examples from some of his books, including one titled “The Energy Bus,” which has a cover photo of a school bus. Many of his seminars are for educators.

“I try to impact the audience by helping them remember why they do what they do and give them principles to help them do that,” he said.

First-grade teacher Beth Lahrman said afterward that the workshop “changed my outlook.” He encouraged her to “look through the lens of taking challenges through a positive light and it gave me perspectives from multiple viewpoints,” realizing that “At times, I am a passenger on a bus and at times I’m a leader.”

She particularly values a poster Gordon provided, called “The Positive Teacher Pledge.” She plans on displaying it in her classroom so students can see the values, such as kindness toward others, that she wants to model.

Teaching is a very hard but rewarding job, Gordon said. All teachers will experience stressful days. He encouraged them to write in a journal at least one good thing that happened each day. 

He said, “This is not ‘Pollyanna positive,’ this is hard, this is challenging, but together we can create change. Pessimists don’t change the world; optimists change the world.”

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A version of this article appeared in the January 24 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.