School is more than a place to prepare for the world academically. It’s a place for children to learn about friendship and community and how to be a good citizen; a place to learn and grow, belong, and be nurtured. Meaningful school traditions instill pride in students and encourage a sense of connection with our community and beyond. Together with our friends at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, we educators on the WeAreTeachers Facebook page to share the meaningful traditions that make them most proud to be part of their school family.

A Meaningful Walk

high school graduate in cap and gown walking hall of elementary school giving students high fives

The kids from our high school wear their caps and gowns and walk the halls in their elementary school the day before graduation. They go from kindergarten to fifth grade as the students stand in the halls and clap. The fifth graders also do this on the last day of school before they leave elementary school. This is my sixth year teaching kindergarten at my school, so my first kinders are now fifth graders. I’m probably going to cry! —Courtney G.

Image: Shelby County Reporter

A Family Feast

Our school hosts a big Thanksgiving dinner! Staff members bring in a side dish, and the school provides the turkey. Staff serves lunch to the kids, then we help ourselves to a plate and sit mixed in with the kids to have a big family dinner. It’s my favorite day of the year. —Kristine E.

Triking to Help Kids in Need

teachers and preschoolers participating in St. Jude Trikeathon

Photo provided by ALSAC/St. Jude

For the past 19 years, our school has participated in the St. Jude Trike-A-Thon. It’s an event that we love to share with our little ones. It teaches them wonderful bicycle safety lessons, and best of all, our students learn about the importance of helping others. Even though our pre-K students are little, only four years old, as they ride bicycles and do their best, they know they are riding in the name of a child that is sick and cannot ride. Even though they are little, they can do something special to help someone else. Altogether we’ve raised over $425k for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. —Carmen S.

Photo provided by ALSAC/St. Jude

For 38 years, preschoolers across the country have been participating in the St. Jude Trike-A-Thon. Not only is the event loads of fun and full of meaningful lessons, it helps raise funds to support families and fight childhood cancer—supporting the mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2022.

Honoring the Flag

Students from my class have the privilege every morning of raising and lowering the American flag in front of the school. They learn how to fold, carry and present our nation’s colors. At the end of the year, I hold a “Ranger graduation.” My students walk across the stage and get the Ranger pins they earned during the year and get to display the platoon flags they made for their platoon. All former students (Rangers) are invited back every year to sit under the flags they created when they were in my class. I have been teaching for 27 years and started the Ranger program 17 years ago. —Chad H.

Inclusive Practices

young people playing a game of wheelchair basketball

My school has disAbility Awareness Day! We have a school-wide day dedicated to teaching the kids about acceptance, friendship, and inclusion. They get to participate in simulations, speak with adults that have varying disabilities, and watch a professional wheelchair basketball team play a game! It’s so rewarding for the students and the teachers. —Elizabeth A.

Image: M Live

Holiday Spirit

We haven’t been able to do it the last few years, but my favorite school tradition is our Polar Express day. Throughout the year, staff donates gently used or new items along with wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, etc. On Polar Express day, our students (especially those most in need) get to come down and “shop” for their families. Staff comes down and helps the kids pick out gifts and get them all wrapped and ready to go for Christmas. Even retired staff come back for the day. It’s a really awesome day for all! —Noelle C.

Caring for Community

Teens volunteering at a womens shelter

During the month of December, the three high schools in our town raise money for local charities. This year, our high school, on its own, raised over $63k for the local homeless shelter and women’s shelter. That’s not a typo! Sixty-three thousand dollars. Raised by one school. I love our school community. —Pattie E.

Image: The Balance Small Business

Senior Showcase

My favorite tradition is our school’s Senior Showcase and “Robing.” Students perform whole group dance numbers and then perform with their fine art senior classmates. Each student picks two adults that mean a lot to them to prepare a few words about them and help them put on their graduation robe and regalia. I’ve been teaching 3rd grade at my school for 20 years and have been asked to robe two kids. It was a highlight of my career. —Ryan W.

School Pride

the crowd at a high school pep rally does "the wave"

At every school assembly or pep rally, each class chants their graduation year. It starts with the seniors and goes down to kindergarten. For example, this year’s seniors would all chant, “Twenty-two, twenty-two, twenty, twenty, twenty-two!” Then the juniors chant, “twenty-three, twenty-three, twenty, twenty, twenty-three,” and so on. I went to school here K-12 and remember doing this. Now I teach here, and they’re still doing it. It’s pretty cool to watch. —Shawna S.

Image: FNF Coaches

It Takes a Village

We have a Secret Samaritan’s Society at my high school for students who are in need of financial assistance for certain things that the district doesn’t already discount. Things like fees for summer school, AP tests, a yearbook, extracurriculars like sports and clubs, etc. Families apply for help, and we put out an anonymous call to a huge email list of parents, staff, alumni, and people from the community. It never takes long (often just minutes) before you get a follow up email that the need has been fulfilled. The society was founded during the 2008/2009 recession when a group of people recognized how many families were struggling, and it’s been going strong ever since. —Susan N.

Building Connections

My school holds monthly “Dragon Dens” (our mascot is a sun dragon). Each staff member (the principal, librarian, office staff, everyone!) has a “den” of kids from each grade, about 12 kids in all. We meet in our individual dens and all have the same lesson on a quality like empathy, perseverance, kindness, etc. There is a read-aloud, and each den creates an art project that is hung around the school. Each year the den stays with you, so you have kids from their first year until they graduate from fifth grade! It’s a wonderful way to create bonds with kids we might not otherwise know, and the kids get to have another adult in the building they know well and trust. —Elizabeth D.

What school traditions do you love the most? We’d love to hear in the comments.

Plus, learn more about how you can bring the St. Jude Trike-a-Thon to your school to start a special tradition and help kids with cancer.