College of Education alumna boosting student confidence through ‘positivi-tees’ movement    

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Mercer alumna Kate Christian and students in her third-grade class are shown wearing their "positivi-tees."

A Tift College of Education alumna is spreading positivity throughout her school and district.  

Kate Christian, a 2018 Mercer graduate, teaches third grade at Rice Creek Elementary in Columbia, South Carolina. Her class read the book Wonder earlier this year, and an idea came to her after she saw a shirt with a phrase from the book. 

With support from her principal and colleagues, she started a movement encouraging staff and students to wear shirts with positive messages every Friday. Christian has been wearing a shirt that says “You are enough,” and her students have worn shirts with messages such as “Great habits make great leaders,” “Best day ever,” “Free to be me,” “Be a friend, not a bully,” “Kindness over everything,” “I’m a limited edition” and “I was born to sparkle.” 

To Christian’s surprise, her small idea took off quickly. Other schools in the district saw photos of Rice Creek students and staff wearing their “positivi-tees” and followed suit. Many elementary, middle and high schools in the district are now participating in this Friday tradition, and other Tift College of Education graduates are trying to start it in their schools, too. 

TOP PHOTO: Mercer alumna Kate Christian and students in her third-grade class are shown wearing their “positivi-tees.” ABOVE: Christian, left, played on Mercer’s women’s lacrosse team for four years and is now the assistant lacrosse coach at Ridge View High School.

“The positivity is spreading. It just was a simple thing. I wanted people to see a positive thing and have a reminder to brighten their day,” Christian said.  

Most of the staff and teachers at her school are wearing positive shirts on Fridays, and they are taking steps to ensure that all students can participate, too. Supplies have been gathered and donated so the kids can make their own shirts with positive messages if they can’t afford to buy them. Rice Creek even had a shirt-making day, and Christian brought supplies to another school one day so they could make shirts, as well.  

Christian’s “positivit-tees” movement got the attention of Columbia news station WIS, which did a story on her in late September.  

She said the shirts promote confidence, and the kids are excited to wear them and show off their personalities through them. One of the things Christian enjoys most about teaching third grade is seeing those personalities develop.  

“Third grade is a big year to kind of grow up,” she said. “They’re taking what they already know and building on it. They’re very curious. You can always see their personality come out in class. It’s really cool just getting to know them and who they are as people.” 

Christian has always loved working with kids. They’re her favorite thing about her job. 

“I want to be that person in their life that they know believes in them, that they know cares about and loves them, and also for them to remember how much they grew in my class. The reasons that we teach – it’s for the students. I want them to feel safe and loved in my class,” she said. 

Christian said she appreciates the field experiences she had as an education major at Mercer. She was placed in a different classroom at a local school each semester, either to observe or do case studies, and she spent a full year as a student teacher at Ingram-Pye Elementary. These experiences gave her the skills she needed to run her own classroom and feel confident starting her first job.

Kate Christian does a science experiment to make lemonade with her third-grade students last year.

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Andrea Honaker