Sweet Home school district to use Orange Frog to boost goodwill

By Benny Westcott
Of The New Era/Lebanon Local

Many people might associate the Sweet Home School District with green and gold, but lately another color has been showing up more and more often: orange.

That’s because on Aug. 23 and 24, about 30 district staffers, including building leaders, completed a training put on by the Orange Frog Workshop, a program based on the works of positive psychology researcher Shawn Achor that has been taught in Harvard’s happiness course and to companies worldwide.

On Monday, Aug. 29, as part of the district’s opening in-service day, the entire district staff listened to a keynote speech from Orange Frog representative and consultant, writer, executive coach and professional trainer Bill Palladino.

New SHSD Superintendent Terry Martin, a pivotal player in bringing the Orange Frog lessons to Sweet Home, wanted to inject some positivity into staff training this year.

“We expect our staff to be pouring into our kids, so we also need to pour into our staff,” he said. “Two and a half years of COVID was absolutely dreadful on education, and it was really hard on our community. Then we had some instability last year as well. So I was like, if we could have our opening in-service make people laugh and leave with a smile, after the last two and a half years being kind of rough, I think that’s a win.

“We spend so much time with the people we work with,” he continued. “At the junior high we called it our work family. That’s what it is. We spend so much time with those that we work with, that that work environment really becomes important.” He added, “Who wouldn’t want a happy teacher for their child?”

“It’s our choice how we react to things,” he explained about the Orange Frog philosophy. “Happiness is a choice. This is something that I truly feel helps each of us as an individual – as much as it will – us as an organization, and the community as well. Some people get hung up with the color, but that just represents the idea that we can choose to be happy and choose to help support one another.”

He noted that “We do that by making a real conscious effort at it, and being mindful that we can help our neighbors.”

“You hear little bits of those stories,” he said. “The person at Sunshine Espresso or Dutch Bros that pays for the car behind them. I’ve got an older gentleman that lives down the street from me that mows our neighbor’s yard because they’ve been in poor health. In a small town, you get bits and pieces of that, but why not just formalize it and really surface it?”

He said the Orange Frog program is “a good chance to get the district off to a good start.”

He stated that “COVID has been really hard on education. I wanted something to lift people up. As I looked around, this opportunity came up.”

Orange Frog fun comes to The New Era and Lebanon Local office as a “joy bomb. “Photo by Scott Swanson

As part of the Aug. 23 and 24 training, 30-some district staffers went through the workshop, dressed in orange, and went out to do “joy bombs” in the community.

“They went out to different places in town and brought them snacks, drinks and happiness,” Martin recalled.

Martin said that High School Principal Ralph Brown thought that the Orange Frog workshop was one of the top three teacher trainings he’d ever been a part of.

“Ralph and I have both been in education coming up on 30 years,” Martin said. “So that’s really saying something when someone says it’s in their top three lifetime.”

Additionally, the district’s Director of Teaching and Learning, Barbi Riggs, and Teaching and Learning Secretary, Michelle Bidwell, received follow-up training to be trainers themselves. Now they’ll be able to conduct additional training over the course of the year with staff.

Whether his staff is wearing orange or not, Martin hopes to return to normalcy this school year after the pandemic. He recalled that during the pandemic, “We couldn’t have open houses. There were so many things we just couldn’t do that everybody was used to doing.”

Now, he noted, the district has a strong lineup of open houses this year – just one part of making the school district what it used to be in Sweet Home in a pre-pandemic era.

“In small towns, schools are the heart of the community,” Martin said. “What are you going to do on Friday night? You’re going to go to the football game and go watch softball, stuff like that.

“We’re eager to get back into our rightful place and have the doors open for people and kids.”

Keynote speaker Palladino is the founder of Krios Consulting, now in its 33rd year. He has served as a senior leadership consultant with the International Thought Leader Network.

Since the organization’s inception, his work has spanned many business and non-profit sectors, including health care, education, insurance and community development.

“As a former teacher, Bill has a special affection for those working in education,” Martin said. He lives in Traverse City, Mich.

Orange Frog experiential workshops teach the science of peak performance based on the seven actionable principles from Achor’s book, “The Happiness Advantage,” and provide a sustainable approach to enhancing productivity at the individual, team and organization levels, according to the Orange Frog Workshop website.

That site reads that the program “provides the blueprint for increasing employee engagement, tapping into people’s intrinsic motivations, and maximizing potential in the workplace and our personal lives.”