Elementary School

#Enthusiasm at Springview Elementary

By Melissa Killingbeck

Prior to becoming the Michigan State Leader for The Positivity Project, I was the principal at Springview Elementary in Flushing, MI for six years. My friend and P2 Lead Teacher, Meg Engleman, invited me back for a visit to sit down and chat with two of her students who recently, with great #Enthusiasm, performed emcee duties at the school’s annual talent show.

As Meg had explained to me, Malakhi Otto (age 12) and Mack Burba (age 11) had originally planned to perform as a comedy duo but they were struggling to come up with exactly what they wanted to do for their act.  That’s when she approached them with the idea of being the talent show co-emcees instead. Meg explained, “When the talent show committee had the idea to have two student emcees, Mack and Malakhi instantly came to my mind! Humor and Bravery are two strengths they both share.  When I suggested the idea to them, they were thrilled!”

When I sat down with Malakhi and Mack, I asked them to think about the lessons they had learned through P2 over the past three years and to tell me which character strengths they applied to their roles as emcees for the talent show. They had no problem going into great detail! (with their permission, below is the transcription of our wonderful conversation)

#Humor- Their goal was to be funny so they both agreed that they definitely had to draw on the character strength of humor.  

Mack– First, definitely humor! You have to know when to try and make a joke and then when to try and stop pushing it.

Malakhi– We definitely needed to know when to stop pushing it. Some people will make a joke and then they just keep doing it over and over and then it isn’t funny anymore.

Mel– Did anyone coach you with that? Or did you just know that?

Malakhi– Me and Mack love jokes! I legitimately planned in fifth grade on being a comedian in my future so I didn’t feel like we needed any help coming up with jokes. I just love making jokes in my spare time, but still, I was surprised that when we would tell a joke, the audience would actually laugh! We literally had back up plans for what to do if the audience did not laugh at a joke!

Mel– Back up plans?

Mack– Yeah, in our script, we would have a star and next to it,  “If they don’t laugh, say line” and we had a back up line to follow up with. Because the jokes, they were terrible! (laughter)

Malakhi– Yeah, we went for a lot of dumb puns. One time we intentionally had a dumb pun and then I was supposed to go over to Mack and say, “Why aren’t they laughing? I thought it was funnier than that!” But they actually laughed! We thought, Dang it! We could have made a better joke!

Mack– Right before the comedy act, I said, “Don’t worry folks, this will be the “punniest” act yet!” and they laughed! I couldn’t believe it! (laughter)

#Bravery- Both boys recognized that for many people regardless of age, getting up in front of a crowd of 600 people would be terrifying.  They agreed that being brave doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t get scared, it means that sometimes you push through it and do it anyway. 

Mack– Just to even go out there onto the stage, some kids wouldn’t  be able to do that.

Malakhi– Some kids think, sure, I can do that and then when it gets in their head and they realize they are about to go out in front of hundreds of people and say jokes that they might not laugh at, it is scary. It messes with your head- even if you are not normally the kind of person who would be scared by that, it can be really scary.

Mel– So were you nervous ahead of time? Right before? Were you nervous when the lights hit you? Any butterflies?

Malakhi– The only butterflies that were in my stomach were, “Yes! I am finally doing something important!”

Mel– So you were excited!

Malakhi– Yeah! The only thing I would have been nervous about would have been not finishing the script in time.

Mack– Yeah, that is the same for me.

#Perseverance- To begin preparing, Mack and Malakhi knew they would need a script. Remarkably, despite their young ages, they understood that being trusted to do this was a big deal– that they would be the first students ever to emcee the school talent show so they wanted to do a great job. They sat in on auditions to help gain ideas for the script, stayed in during recess to work on it, and worked at home as well. The boys talked about how much work it was to write the script, and estimated they each spent about 12 hours writing their parts. Each admitted there were times they wanted to give up.

Mack– It definitely took perseverance!

Malakhi– Definitely perseverance! I mean, we could have stopped at any time when we were like, this is too hard. I’m dropping it and not doing it anymore. But we didn’t do that, we just kept working on it. If we would have quit, Mrs. Engleman would have been so disappointed if we just dropped it. We would never want to do that to her!

Mack– Yeah! When we were working on it, we were always like, we have to keep working on this script! We have to!

Malakhi– We kept having to crack down on it, like how are we going to do this? What are we going to write for this act or that? And then we kept using the same word too much and we had to keep going back over it.

Mel– I love that you appreciated that this was a big deal and this was important and you wanted to do the right thing. That is really amazing!

Malakhi– We just really felt that this was big. I think my favorite thing about the entire thing was just, it was so much fun to make. It’s not like you would expect me and Mack, two sixth graders, to be able to do something like that! I mean, we are funny people, we make jokes, but…

Mack– Oh yeah, we are hilarious! (laughter) See what I mean? Exhibit A! We are funny!

Malakhi– We are literally just two sixth graders out of our entire school. There were so many adults that could have done it. So many other people.

Mack– Wait, wait, wait, we are not “JUST” sixth graders (laughter).

Mel– Right, but the point is, there were so many other people who could have done it, but you two took the initiative and had the courage to take it on and you persevered through the hard work. Every year as the principal it was my job to emcee so l know how much work it is to be prepared.

#Leadership- Mack and Malakhi both had a keen appreciation that they were doing something important and that by doing so, they might inspire other students to follow their example.

Malakhi– It was just such a fun experience. I mean we are going to middle school next year and this is something to look back on. We are leaving the school and we can be like, “I’m leaving my legacy”. This is our legacy. And we were talking and we feel like now (that we have been emcees) other kids are going to want to try to do it now. I think Mrs. Engleman said we are the first kids to ever do something like this at our school.

Mack– We left an impression.

Mel– Yes you did! I heard you say that one of the most important things to you was that you were leaving a legacy at the school and you feel that because you did this, it might make other people want to do it. What do we call that?

Mack & Malakhi– Leadership!

Mel– Absolutely! You are leading the way for others to realize they are capable of big things, too.

Malakhi– Yeah! That is definitely leadership! We have to stand up, push through the crowd and be like, you know what? Let’s just do it! We got this!

Mack– Yeah, there were two kids that I heard that were already thinking like, hey! We could do this next year!  And we were thinking, Man! We are only sixth graders and we started something for an entire school!

#Humility- Without any prompting, the boys connected the success they had to using what they had learned about the importance of staying humble and not letting “fame” go to their heads.

Malakhi– Oh! Another character strength we used was humility because afterwards what happened, Mack?

Mack– Oh yeah! I walked out back stage and everyone was mobbing us telling us we were great!

Malakhi– Yeah! Everyone kept coming up to us and slapping us on the back and telling us how great we were!

Mel– So when that was happening, what did you do to keep yourselves grounded to stay humble?

Malakhi– I just told myself, I am not the first person in the world to do this, and to be honest, it is just talking in front of a bunch of people. I mean I’ve done it before sort of because I have done acting so if felt kind of normal for me.

Mack– Yeah, I have done plays sometimes at my church so it really was no big deal.

#Creativity- Mack and Malakhi recognized that it took a lot of creativity to come up with 24 pages worth of jokes that were specifically connected to each individual act.

Mack– Oh! I know another one! Creativity!

Malakhi– Yes! Definitely, we had to be creative with that script! Like I said, me and Mack…pretty funny people (laughter). But even funny people can run out of jokes. But you have to know your boundaries. Knowing when it is funny and when it is time to stop. When you have creativity you have to be careful not to get carried away.

Mel– Absolutely! What else, can you think of any other character strengths?

#Perspective- Again, without any prompting, the boys connected the fact that if their goal was to be funny, it was important that they recognized the perspective of their audience.

Malakhi– What about perspective? I mean you really need to take into your thoughts another person’s perspective when you are telling a joke. You don’t want to say something that might offend someone and you can’t do that if you don’t take in their perspective.

Mack– Yeah, we knew we were writing our jokes to tell parents and kids.

Malakhi– There was this one thing that me and my dad were talking about. Me and my dad love watching stand up comedy acts. I would watch something and I would think, oh I could use this in my script and then I’m thinking, oh wait, it is for school. My dad said, comedy for them is different, because they are not talking to kids, they think, if you are not offending someone it is not humor. We needed to know our audience was kids and their parents. We needed to keep that perspective.


Mel– Wow! I am so impressed with what you guys have learned. Do you feel like the lessons you have done with P2 over the last three years have helped you? You can obviously connect the character strength with your own experience as an emcee. Do you think the work you have done learning the character strengths through the P2 lessons helped you to demonstrate them?

Malakhi– Some of them, definitely. I think some of them happen naturally, like humor. But others like humility for example, I know for a 100% fact, what I learned from P2 did help me! One of the lessons we had about humility was this person who was really, really good at something, and they just kept telling themselves, “what I am doing is just something that people do, no big deal and it happens to be something that I do well but it isn’t a big deal.”

Mel– That sounds like what you said when you were explaining earlier how you had to use humility when kids were congratulating you.

Malakhi– I know that I was thinking about that. I know that is how I learned about what humility is. I mean it’s hard when everyone is telling you that you are great. You have to legitimately tell yourself something so it doesn’t go to your head.

Mack– Also, I remember a lesson for humility from last year where there was this guy in Iowa who had the chance of breaking the free throws made in a row, but the guy who held the record and still holds it now had died in a car crash when he was in school, so the guy had to decide, should I make it or miss it? He tried to make it look like he tried to make it, but he purposefully missed. It was kind of like, if you were in his shoes, would you have missed it or would you have tried to take all the glory for yourself? Showing humility means you don’t take the glory for yourself.

Mel– It sounds like the P2 lessons have really had an impact on you. That makes me really proud to hear. I want to thank you both for taking time to sit down with me. It was great to catch up with what you are doing. I am really proud of both of you. Is there anything else you think I need to know?

Malakhi– You are awesome! Oh and we need some humility, but we are awesome too!

Mack– And P2 is pretty good!!

Mel– What are some things you like about P2?

Mack– I like the activities, some are really fun!

Mel– you love the activities, what else?

Malakhi– The lessons that they teach. Most of them I am really interested in.

Mack– Yeah, with P2 you don’t have to “fake interest” in what you are learning (laughter).

Malakhi– Yeah, a lot of the video clips are really cool. Some of the activities that you talk to your partner about are really engaging! Is that the right word?

Mel– That is absolutely the right word! Our goal is to make the lessons engaging. That’s how kids learn best! You know what? You guys are pretty engaging! (laughter)

Following my conversation with Mack and Malakhi, I had the opportunity to speak with their teacher again. I told Meg how impressed I was by their depth of understanding on how the character strengths applied to this real life situation. Meg shared, “When the night of the Talent Show arrived, I marveled at how genuinely calm both boys seemed.  Having been the emcee before, I know what guts it takes to stand in front of a crowd of 600+ people.  However in the minutes before the show started they didn’t act any differently than they do any other day or time, as if this is what they were born to do.  That’s one of the things I love most about The Positivity Project; I feel that it truly helps kids to find their niche. What I found even more impressive than their onstage presence, was the way they treated other kids backstage. If performers seemed nervous before going on, Mack and Malakhi joked with them or tried to pump them up.  As each act exited the stage they gave high fives and accolades, telling the performers just how awesome they did! And that right there is the other thing I love about P2– kids learning and embodying the #OtherPeopleMatter mindset each and every day.”


Melissa Killingbeck
P2 Curriculum Manager

Melissa Killingbeck is the Curriculum Manager for The Positivity Project and ensures our resources are at their highest quality. Melissa earned her bachelor's degree and teaching certificate in elementary education and holds a Master's in Education with certification in K-12 administration. Before joining the P2 team, Melissa was a successful P2 Partner School principal in Flushing, Michigan, where she worked for 25 years as a teacher, instructional coach, and principal. After retiring from public education in 2019, Melissa relocated to northern Michigan with her husband Casey and their Silver Lab, Tank. When not knee-deep in P2 resources, Melissa can be found rockhounding along a lakeshore, enjoying a boat ride with Casey and Tank, or "downstate" visiting their two grown children.