Hughes Elementary School has Heart and High Fives

Hughes Elementary School is located on the east side of the Prosper Independent School District in McKinney on Prestwick Hollow Drive south of US Highway 380. Principal Tiffany Johns is in her 10th year of employment with PISD.

Johns says one of her favorite features of the campus is its ties to Jim and Betty Hughes, the schools’ namesakes. “I think sometimes our schools in McKinney or Celina feel like we are not quite as much a part of Prosper,” she said. “Having Betty in the community and the interaction with her is just great. She brings cookies for the staff and comes to assemblies and the kids just ooh and aah over her.”

 Johns says the school’s motto is “Hughes has Heart.” The ‘heart’ comes from an acronym spelled out from “we prepare students to be: Hardworking, Ever-growing, Respectful and Thinkers.”

In addition to Hughes Heart, there is also a Hughes High Five. Teachers have little die cuts of a hand to present to a student who exemplifies the “Hughes Has Heart” motto. Then the student brings the Hughes High Five to Johns or Assistant Principal Stephanie Cockrell who then will call the child’s parents to share the good news and the student gets his or her picture in the Hughes newsletter. “The students love it and parents love it,” Johns said.

Johns said she and Haley Stelly, principal at Light Farms Elementary, did their undergraduate work together in Waco at Baylor University. “She started teaching in Prosper in 2007 and I stayed in Waco and taught for a year,” Johns said. “And then we ended up teaching at Baker under Mrs. [Jana] Thomson. Mrs. Thomson was a great encourager.”

Johns also celebrates a wide diversity in the families of the Hughes campus. She said she loves learning about the students’ families and customs. “They are what makes the school unique,” Johns said. “We also have a great parental support group. We have copy moms that come every week and they do lunch duty for the teachers. It’s really, really nice to have that support from them.”

The Hughes campus has a strong sense of community within its teachers. She says the teachers have a close bond whether they are in their first year of teaching or in their 25th year.

Johns says she loves being a principal. “My husband and I have that conversation every day because I don’t call my job work. I love just the excitement of an elementary school and just the newness of education. These students are in the infancy stages of their education.” She told the story of a little boy who came to her in the morning to show her he has learned 13 letters. When he started school this year, he couldn’t make all the letters of the alphabet and in today’s world with so many children going to pre-school, that is not typical. He was excited to show Mrs. Johns he knows 13 of the letters. “He brought his little flash cards to show me,” she said. “Things like that are the highlight of my days.”

The school’s leadership comes from the top down. Dr. Watkins knows Prosper is a place where people are buying houses because of the school district, Johns said, “and that’s what we want to preserve. It doesn’t matter that we have 250 more students this year from last year. Our goal is to know every kid’s name. We know if they have a brother or sister, if they have a soccer game this weekend. Seeing the students outside of school, they know we care about them.” Johns says if students know his or her teacher cares about them, they will do anything asked of them. “I can train anyone to teach math or science but to connect with the kids, that is something you can’t teach,” Johns said. “I love just being able to connect with the kids. Once you have that kind of relationship with a child, they will do anything for you.”

Teachers are invested in their students at PISD and that is one of the reasons Johns was drawn to work in Prosper and the reason she has stayed working here.

Joyce Godwin | Joyce@CedarbrookMedia.com

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