Exclusive insight into what is possible when a High School teacher provides an environment to make a difference in a positive way. Seven inspiring stories captured over 10 days. Please join us in celebrating these fantastic projects of giving back and leadership. All stories are captured in the online publication below.
Todd Babiasz is a familiar name at Grand Blanc High School. He began teaching social studies at GBHS soon after graduating from Central Michigan University (CMU) 21 years ago. CMU is where he met his wife Tanya and since then they have had five kids, Annie (15), Hannah (12), Silas (10), Maria (7), and Teresa (5).
Babiasz wanted to make a greater impact on his students and went to receive training from the Positivity Project, a program with the mission to promote positivity in schools by giving teachers the tools to teach their students the 24 character strengths.
Babiasz taught a leadership class briefly but felt that something was “off.” He went to Matinga Ragatz and leaned on her quite a bit for advice and encouragement, feeling that he wanted his students to do more than just talk about leadership.
“Our kids need an opportunity to do something great… And they need to go out and lead,” Babiasz said.
Moving forward, Babiasz received, and continues to receive, a ton of support from Ragatz, other teachers in the social studies department, like Heather Grzymkowski and Zach Bradley, and even Superintendent Clarence Garner, whose advice to Babiasz as the program developed was to “keep messing up” until he struck the right chord. Just last year, Babiasz began his own program: the Positive Impact Project.
Babiasz explained, “As great as last year went, I wanted to make it even better. That is why I teamed up with Jamie Nicholson, GBHS Multi-Media teacher. I knew that he had a tremendous program and has extremely talent students, so I proposed a joint venture. That meant that this year my L.E.A.D. students had 3 of his talented Multi-Media students to produce and edit their final videos. As you can see they were outstanding and I am so grateful to have worked with Mr. Nicholson and his students.”
In this version, Babiasz gives his students the room to choose what way they would like to make a positive impact on the community and then allows them to go out to see what they can do. 3 semesters and one whole year later, Babiasz says he has seen his 3 different groups of students “do incredible things.” Each project occurs over one semester. This past semester students got involved with pet adoption, promotion of women’s health products, mentoring younger students, creating awareness of cardiac issues, and impacting the lives of seniors in senior living facilities.
“As happy as my students are… I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Babiasz said. “It’s been really inspiring for me to see.”
Babiasz’s advice for other teachers is to ask themselves, “what can I allow my kids to do?” He attributes the success of the program to the students’ own desire do something great. By stepping back and allowing them to take ownership over the projects they choose, even greater things begin to happen.
The program has even peaked the interest of other schools, many of which are local, like Powers Catholic, but there are even a few from other states, like North Carolina and Illinois, that have reached out wanting to know more.
Babiasz hopes to share this program with more schools in the future!