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December 21, 2021

Attendance Superstars: The Nice List

Laurie Miller, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Dear Mrs. Claus,

I’m writing to let you know about some extraordinary educators that should definitely be put on the nice list (and because I assume you receive fewer letters than your husband). Plus, let’s face it, I think we both know who makes the decisions at 123 Elf Road, and that’s why I’m kindly asking you to check the list twice and make certain that Danielle Delk and Ivelisse Sanchez from Blackburn Elementary, Rene Barnard from Nocatee Elementary, and Rebecca Drum and Davida Dagan from Glenallen Elementary School are on the nice list. They’ve earned it for going above and beyond as examples of excellence in our 2021 Attendance Awareness Poster Contest. 

Thanks to the generosity of The Patterson FoundationSuncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s annual Attendance Awareness Poster Contest helped remind participating public school students in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota to Make Every Day A Learning Day by creating posters that raise awareness on the importance of outstanding attendance.

Because these educators were beyond nice and excelled in this contest – working overtime to engage students – I was hoping you could help surprise them with a couple gifts, like getting some bikes for the students at Glenallen Elementary, providing fun snacks for the students at Nocatee Elementary, and gifting sidewalk chalk to the students at Blackburn Elementary. I think you see where this is going. In case you’re on the fence, I had the privilege of interviewing all these amazing educators to highlight just how nice they are. (BTW – I’m summarizing our conversations below because… I’m not a real reporter).

Not surprisingly, good attendance is highly valued by the staff at all of these schools. 

ME: How did the Attendance Awareness Poster Contest help with your efforts to encourage outstanding attendance? How did you utilize the contest at your school?

IVELISSE SANCHEZ: The Attendance Awareness Poster Contest is always a great tool to encourage students’ attendance. It’s not just the opportunity to be recognized and earn prizes, but also, they like the chance to use their creativity. Our Arts teacher, Mr. Thompson, created lessons for his class utilizing the poster contest, and the students were able to work on their posters during Arts class. Every year I welcome the opportunity of including our school in the poster contest, and the students ask for it too. This year was very poignant to have our students participate because of the Covid pandemic and the quarantine protocols at school. During August and September, we had whole classes out of school for weeks at a time due to quarantine protocols. Every morning in September, we reminded students of the poster contest and told them: “Make every day a learning day! and Every Day Counts!” Our average daily attendance for September was 88%, even though we had 106 students absent due to Covid protocols, from 1-12 days during the month. So, it was a challenging month for students’ attendance.

RENE BARNARD: The students were extremely excited. They get to think on a creative level – What about school do you like? What makes you want to get up in the morning to come?

REBECCA DRUM: We make a big deal out of it, so it’s an honor to win. The contest helps bring meaning to the initiative.

DANIELLE DELK: The contest was a constant reminder for students, a hands-on approach that raised awareness at school and at home.

ME: Do you have any helpful hints or advice to help other schools? What’s your #1 tip? How do you incentivize or award outstanding attendance?

RENE BARNARD: Make the award a big deal – a ceremony everyone can work toward. Make the posters visible throughout the school, so parents see them at meetings. Acknowledge students with outstanding attendance with a medallion, certificates, and a ribbon. Each week students with perfect attendance sign a giant poster on the cafeteria wall, which is then shared as a picture on Facebook. The students love having their pictures taken and seen.

IVELISSE SANCHEZ: My number one tip is to advertise good attendance constantly. We do that here at Blackburn in different ways. I created an Attendance Bulletin Board with great visuals for the students. We have the words “Every Day Counts!” scrolling through our electronic school sign. We have a “Make Every Day A Learning Day!” banner hanging on the fence by the bus loop fence for all incoming traffic to see, and the other is on the cafeteria wall next to the Bolts Attendance Tracker. The Graduation Enhancement encourages our students to come to school every day. I do a mentorship when they are struggling with attendance and offer them multiple incentives: for perfect attendance, we offer the students monthly treats like pencils, sidewalk chalk, sweets, and gift certificates that I can get from different businesses in the area. For some of my mentees with chronic absenteeism, I offer them a treat from a “Treasure box” when they’re present every day of the week and the opportunity to borrow chapter books. 


  • Community support
  • The morning news program
  • Attendance bingo
  • Jenga
  • Card games
  • Attendance spirit week
  • Attendance breakfasts with parents.

ME: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your school or attendance?

RENE BARNARD: We used to give out candy as monthly rewards for classrooms with the best attendance, but our funds dried up. This year we’re hoping to get a trophy.

DANIELLE DELK: The whole school came together for the contest. It took the community to pull it off.

DAVIDA DAGAN: Students that live within 2 miles of the school are not provided busses. Parents worry when their kids have to walk even a mile if the weather is bad or if the student is very young. This negatively impacts attendance. We’re trying to buy bikes for students to help with transportation challenges. This would be hugely beneficial.

Wow, right? If above didn’t prove how nice and good these people are, when asked about their own attendance as children, ALL of them shared that they had excellent attendance. ALL of them loved going to school (which is pretty awesome when you consider that they still go to school every day)!

Mrs. Claus, I hope that this has given you some insight into these very NICE people and educators and that you’ll consider helping out with some gifts (such as bikes, snacks, pencils, and sidewalk chalk) for their schools. 

P.S. – Please disregard my request for a wooden cheese plate and grant these gifts instead. Also, keep your eyes peeled for my letter about a couple of folks who should go on the naughty list.

Thank you and happy holidays,


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