ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — There’s something different about the students at Cherokee Heights Elementary these days.

They sit a little quieter, use words more than their fists, and they listen better to teachers.

Sharon Hendrix, the school’s principal, says it’s due to a promise she made to the students earlier this month: that when the students earned 600 “tiger paws” — little yellow pieces of paper stamped with black paw marks — she’d color her hair pink.

Prior to the tiger paw challenge, which awarded students for acts of kindness and respect, lots of negative words were being exchanged between students.

“We really wanted to change that,” Hendrix said.

One student named Chaquon said he earned a tiger paw by helping to clean up the gym equipment. Muna, another student, said she helped pick up some snow pants that were lying on the floor.

“They started to notice what respect looks like and sounds like,” Hendrix said.

At first, the teachers thought 600 tiger paws would be a good goal. But after just two weeks, the students were so successful that the teachers realized they’d have to up their goal to 3,000.

Ultimately, the kids earned more than 3,100.

“She looked really funny when she came out,” Muna said, describing her pink-haired principal.

While the tiger paw challenge has ended, the hope at Cherokee Heights is that the respect it nurtured will continue.

“Our behavior has been probably the best that we’ve had all year,” Hendrix said.

The challenge’s success, she added, wasn’t just about the pink hair.


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