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Teacher starts school days by challenging students to be positive

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Posted at 9:49 PM, Oct 11, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Every morning Zach Simon stands outside Northwest High School in Omaha, Nebraska, with a sign.

"There was a call to action with each thing. It wasn’t just a smile or feel good but you were challenged to go on to the next person to do something, how can we get them to take action," said Simon, dean of students at Northwest High.

Simon started the project as an assignment for a class he's taking while getting another master's degree. He was challenged by instructors and they came up with a "pay it forward" activity. He says after reading a book by John Gordon, he was inspired to share positivity through his leadership.

"He talks about everyone, and leaders had a signature leadership trait or gesture and I wanted to help the kids and share positivity. He talks about positive mindset as a choice and I was reflecting and thought, 'How can I get my students to buy into positive mindset and how much better when it’s early in the morning,'" Simon said.

He says he saw a response from kids almost immediately. On his first day, he challenged them to say "thank you" and they did. The simple gesture went a long way.

"I noticed although a few of them were saying thank you to me and it was starting a conversation a few of them turned to their bus driver and thanked them before they got off the bus and I could see some of the bus drivers give me a thumbs-up through the window and a smile behind their masks," Simon said.

Principal of Northwest High, Kimberly Jackson says Simon's challenge set an example every morning. She says it sparked a light not just in students but also in staff. She adds, having leaders like Simon is critical to Northwest.

"It’s an important time to make sure the day is started. Students are coming to us from all different environments and we want to make sure we provide stability and consistency to ensure they know what to expect when walking through our doors, so having something like Mr. Simon’s project in front is just a great road map for some of them as to how we start our day how we greet people the right way," Jackson said.

Simon thinks he'll continue his signs even after his class is over.

This story was originally reported by Alyssa Curtis on