The start of every school day at Miller-Driscoll Elementary has always been kicked off by the morning announcements. Any news the whole school needs to hear—like perhaps if there’s an assembly or someone is celebrating a special birthday—is read over the PA system, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Up until just a couple weeks ago that job was done by the principal, but when Bernadette Hess started on Jan. 4 as the school’s interim principal, she decided to shake that up.

“I said, ‘Why can’t the kids do that?’ So [school counselor] Elena White and I went to every second grade class and said, ‘This is a very big job and I need some help, who would be interested?’ It was a great way to get into classrooms and meet the kids,” she says.

Each morning, a team of two second graders comes down to the main office to read the announcements over the PA system, and Hess is there to help them. All students in each of the second grade classes will have the opportunity this year to take part if they choose to do so. Hess says it’s an incredible confidence builder and boost to the kids’ self-esteem.

“They hear their voice, their voices are heard. It’s so powerful. They all acknowledge they’re nervous, and they’re scared, or it’s freaky in their words, it’s something new. And then once they do it, get through it and accomplish it, that’s a huge lesson,” says Hess.

bernadette hess with students

Don’t just take her word for it, though—here’s what some of the students who’ve done it already said they’d tell a nervous classmate before reading the announcements:

Sofia:  “Sometimes you can be a little scared when you’re just starting, like if it was your first time doing something in front of a big group of people it might be a little scary. But sometimes practice can help.”

Curtis:  “Look at the words on the paper in front of you and go slow when you start the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Maia:  They shouldn’t be scared ’cause it’s actually really fun.

Caris: It’s kind of scary at first but it’s actually not scary at last.

The morning announcement initiative is one way that Hess is focusing on building community, one of her top priorities in taking the lead at Miller-Driscoll.

“Bringing the school together, especially during construction where the building is evolving and changing. We’re building kindness every day, we need to support each other, that’s really my objective,” she says.

Second grader Beckett is at least one student who proves that Hess is headed the right way. “We also like to do the announcements because it’s for the school and we like our principals.”

As a former kindergarten and first grade teacher, Hess is excited to be in the school for Wilton’s youngest kids. “They’re so joyful, they’re excited about learning, and they’re brutally honest,” she laughs. “They come here happy and they leave here happy.”

Hess is also excited to take the morning announcement program and build on it.

“That’s why we started in second grade. They’re already so independent. My hope is that this will continue next year and expand.”