Getting young students excited for school isn’t always an easy feat. But, one elementary school teacher is making it happen with cool, personalized handshakes for each of her students.
Ms. Jerusha Willenborg is a teacher at Mueller Elementary School in Wichita, Kansas. She memorized a special handshake for each one of her 20 third-grade students. The tradition began three years ago, when she would high-five and fist-bump students.
One of them suggested a few upgrades to the handshake, and it took off from there:
“He added on to it. Then, everyone wanted a handshake.”
Now she continues the tradition, opting out of traditional roll call for a fun, more pumped up alternative outside the classroom.
Watch the dedicated educator and her class in action:
These aren’t plain ol’ handshakes, people. These are complex, complete with hugs, dabs, and dancing. Full-on choreography and moderate dance experience required!
Willenborg hopes, more than anything, that the handshakes show each and every student she cares:
“The kids don’t always make good choices. They are amazing kids, but you know, they’re kids. At the end of the day, they give me their handshake, whether they had a good day or not, they leave that day knowing I still care about them.”
And from what one student named Harmoni has said of the handshakes, mission accomplished:
“It makes me feel like Ms. Willenborg has my back.”
Willenborg admits she didn’t expect this much attention from a seemingly small gesture, but she hopes it can create a chain reaction of kindness.
Willenborg isn’t the only teacher to come up with personalized student handshakes.
In 2017, Barry White, Jr. came up with a complicated handshake for each of his students at Ashley Park Pre-K-8 School in Charlotte, North Carolina. The elaborate greeting has become a staple of their ‘good morning’ routine at school:
“They know when they get to the front door we do our ‘good mornings,’ and then it’s time to go. I’m always pumped up and then we start doing the moves and that brings them excitement and pumps them up for a high-energy class.”
Similar to Willenborg, White began his handshakes with one student:
“I started with one simple handshake last year with a 4th grader. She would wait for me every morning before she’d go to class. She’d get in trouble sometimes for being late because she’d wait on the handshake.”
It continued to grow as buzz spread around school. White began doing a few more handshakes with students during recess:
“This year I started making handshakes with the kids at recess. It was just one or two students and then it became contagious.”
Then, it went from one or two students to his entire fifth-grade class, and even students from other classes:
“I saw how much it meant to them, so I said, ‘Come on. Everyone come on.’ Then it was my full class, then it was kids from other classes. Now I have 3rd graders wanting to do it too.”
White doesn’t leave the dance moves at the door either. He coaches a step team at the school, and some of his students are a part of the club:
“I just know the certain moves that go with certain kids because it’s personalized. For example, I started a step team at the school. Some of my 5th graders I teach are on that step team and you’ll notice we step a little bit in their handshakes.”
Some might be wondering how on earth these teachers, who already have to memorize so much, can manage to remember each of these elaborate handshakes, tailored to each student and their distinct personalities. White explained that it isn’t all that difficult after a while. Once he did the handshakes a few times and made it a part of their morning routine, it became a part of his muscle memory.
Shoutout to these teachers for making back-t0-school season a lot more enjoyable.