Partner School Stories

Coaching Up the Character Strengths

By Amber Allenbrandt

The role of a coach in sports is to train others towards excellence by modeling proper form, leading through challenge, and magnifying the hard work of great players. The role of a coach in school is no different. 

I am a Behavioral Excellence Coach and the Regional Positivity Project (P2) Coach at the Cayuga Onondaga BOCES in the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York. BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) organizations are regional education centers across our state that provide shared educational programs and services to local school districts. Currently, I serve ten school districts in the areas of professional development training, behavioral management, and data-driven multi-tiered systems of support. 

In my unique role as a Regional P2 Coach, I help train teachers on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Mental Health. The Positivity Project takes care of this perfectly by aligning directly with the New York State Mental Health Standards, NY SEL benchmarks, and the CASEL framework.  Additionally, I support the P2 efforts of our schools by supporting educators in teaching the weekly character strength to their students.  If they find they want to dig a bit deeper, I’m happy to provide additional resources that enhance their students’ understanding and in turn discussions of that particular character strength.

To advocate the importance of P2 in our schools both regionally and statewide, I typically take to Twitter to share the incredible work and power of P2 in our schools.  To give you some ideas on what you could also share on your social media:

  • I’ve highlighted the character strength of Teamwork when a kindergarten class at Union Springs Central School District was practicing social distancing on the playground. 
  • When our Cato-Meridian Elementary teachers were learning to teach in a hybrid environment, I shared a post of appreciation for their Perseverance. 
  • Each month I share a #PositivityinAction shoutout in our regional newsletter to recognize the positive actions of a teacher/classroom who is embodying the P2 mission.  

I firmly believe when we share what we do, we cast the fishing line a little farther and reach a wider school of fish. 

Most of the schools in our BOCES have developed P2 teams with student participation at the forefront. Our goal moving forward is to provide a regional collaboration in the late Spring of 2021 for our current P2 schools to show off their success and network with each other about the impact and vision for P2 in our region.  We also want to facilitate visits between P2 schools and create our own P2 quarterly newsletter spreading the messages of #PositivityInAction and the #OtherPeopleMindset. 

I cannot imagine my role as a coach without the involvement of The Positivity Project. I believe that every school should have a P2 Coach as a way to streamline resources, promote P2 on the school’s social media, and pump up The Positivity Project spirit in students and staff. This coach could be a P2 leader, principal, curriculum director, social worker, counselor, or any staff member who loves and supports the messages of The Positivity Project. 

As we can all attest, it’s difficult to keep the momentum and enthusiasm of any initiative in schools over time. However, when we combine leadership and support with innovation and outward thinking, we can keep the charge going long after its start.  To simplify it into one small thought, “Schools need a coach, cheerleader, broadcaster, and team player to win. When you have someone who can play all those positions, it’s’ easy to play the game and achieve team success.” 

Amber Allenbrandt

Amber Allenbrandt is a member of the Professional Development Unit at Cayuga Onondaga BOCES in Upstate New York.  Prior to joining the department, Amber worked as a Special Education Teacher in the Auburn Enlarged City School District and at the Genesee Valley BOCES in Western New York. She has been a Therapeutic Crisis Intervention in Schools (TCIS) trainer since 2015. Amber holds a Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Oswego in Childhood Education, a Master’s degree from SUNY Geneseo in Literacy, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration from SUNY Oswego. Amber grew up in the small town of LeRoy, NY, the birthplace of Jell-O. She is also a huge Buffalo Bills fan and loves to bake.