CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - A Cape Girardeau Central Middle School teacher has a special tradition: she exchanges a special handshake with each of her students before class every day.
Students say it has actually helped them learn more in the classroom.
"It's a bond between us," 5th-grade student Dillon Graham said.
Kelley Branch said she came up with an idea to connect with students and to help build teacher/student relationships.
"I thought about a way that I can make the students feel that they are unique individuals and each loved by me," Branch said. "I'm a big sports fan. I love the handshakes that the Cardinals do in their dugout and I just thought what a better way to make kids feel as individuals and loved in my classroom as to greet them that way each morning."
Branch gave the students a weekend assignment in August to come up with a special handshake.
"I came up with it, me and my brother," Graham said. "When she said we're going to do them I started figuring out what mine was going to be."
"That's why a lot of them are unique and they're all just kid created," Branch explained. "Honestly it's not that hard. When you see the kid's face and you've done it with them probably 200 times at least by now. I know they're leading me through the handshake and that it's just muscle memory."
After learning each handshake, Branch memorized them all. She said it has helped ensure the students to start their day off on the right foot.
"It just pumps me up and stuff, like makes me have a great day," 5th-grade student Katie Neikirk said.
"It helps you be confident in yourself and mostly make friends and do handshakes with them," 5th-grade student Javis Harriet said.
Branch believes this handshake has helped the students in many other ways as well.
"My students not only have a strong relationship with me but also with one another," Branch added. "We are a class family and the kids are all connected through various things, not just the handshakes but various things that make us a unit and family at school."
One student said this has helped his grades even.
"Usually I'm a B student," Graham explained. "This semester I think I'm going to be on A honor roll."
When asked if he thinks that the handshake was the reason for his improvement of grades, Graham replied, "Yes, it gives me more confidence."
Branch said she thinks connecting with her students on different levels can help them learn arnd grow.
"I think that a relationship with a student is the biggest tool you have in your toolbox," Branch said. "If your kids don't connect with you, if you don't have a mutual love and understanding and respect for one another, it's really challenging to make the kids know that you believe in them and that you see success in their lives," Branch said.