Altoona Middle School students spent last week learning a valuable life lesson one note at a time.

To teach students the importance of gratitude before they went on Thanksgiving vacation, middle school principal Dan Peggs wrote personalized notes to Altoona schools’ teachers and staff, then placed those messages at various locations at the school.

When students came across those letters — which thanked those who work at the school for their efforts, noting their positive personality traits — they brought them to the staff member they were addressed to.

Students then read the messages to the person they were addressed to and interacted with them before taking a selfie to post on Facebook.

The intent of the initiative, titled the Gratitude Challenge, was to show students the importance of being thankful, Peggs said, and to foster positive interactions between students and those who work in the school.

“Part of the intent of this was to make sure that students are part of that process,” Peggs said. “They get the idea of gratitude better if they are personally involved.”

Students weren’t the only ones to benefit from the endeavor. Teachers and school staff said they enjoyed the kind, thoughtful notes Peggs wrote to them.

Everyone from administrative staff to food service workers to custodians to teachers were on the receiving end of one of Peggs’ letters.

“It was so nice how he personalized what he wrote,” said Joyce Orth, executive assistant to the superintendent.

In all, Peggs said, he wrote 72 notes to those he works with.

“I really am thankful for all of those people, and I thought this was one way I could model that sense of gratitude to students,” he said.

Peggs said he came up with the idea while planning a school assembly that took place Friday. He wants students to think about community outreach, he said, but before they can do that they need to have a strong culture at school.

At the end of the school day Friday students and staff celebrated the spirit of gratitude.

Peggs said he hopes they turn the thankful messages in the notes he wrote into future acts of kindness.

“I want them to realize that we all have something to be thankful for,” he said.

Contact: 715-830-5911, julian.emerson@ecpc.com