CABOT, Ark. — Cabot teachers are working ahead of the new school year to create change that involves capturing the hearts of children.

Cabot Middle School North Counselor Jerry Garland has made it his life mission to serve the children in his community.

“This is my 20th year,” said Garland. “The kids are why I do this.”

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He, along with his fellow middle school staff members, are eager to take their love for teaching a step further.

"We are building a culture that we want to have here in our building,” said Suzie Kelley, CMSN principal.

The school partnered with "Capturing Kids' Hearts," a national program that shows teachers how to get and keep their students' attention by connecting with them on a personal level.

With a week of training, staff learn how to build stronger bonds with their students.

They are gaining new team building tools to take back to the classroom.

Some of those tools come in the form of games like the famous rock-paper-scissors, a simple game that can bring everyone together.

"It doesn’t take skills to play it,” said Garland. “The athletic kids and the academic kids, they are all on the same playing field."

"It’s about praising them, cheering them on, how to approach students at their comfort level," said Kelley.

Teachers heard the term “take a step backwards.”

It’s not often you hear that term in a school setting, but staff is learning that's what it takes to connect and get to know their students far beyond their names.

“Sometimes they are very distant from their teachers because we hit the ground running. We have a lot of curriculum to cover in a short amount of time,” said Kelley.

With the new tools and a new mindset, Cabot schools won’t be just about lesson plans and test scores, but time together, trust, and team building.

"If you care, then they are going to work for you,” said Garland. “That's what we want for them to be the best students and best community."

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School staff said the "Capturing Kids' Hearts" process is proven to reduce the number of dropouts and disciplinary referrals among other things.

Cabot Middle School North and South, along with Cabot Learning Academy, took part in the training.

Each school will apply what they've learned to all classrooms.