Classroom Rewards: What Is Your Flavor Du Jour?

Motivating students has been a teacher’s task since the beginning of teaching which is possibly the world’s second oldest profession.

At the Catholic school I attended my elementary years the motivation for the classroom was fear. The last thing any student of Sister Agnes’ third-grade class wanted was to be dragged behind the piano in the corner of the room where one’s backside would have a lengthy conversation with the custom-made, solid oak, half-yard stick. Sadly, over the course of the year every student in her class would have that conversation—a staccato firing of the oak with reports blasting throughout the classroom like Spring Festival fireworks. Even little Susie who never did anything wrong was forced to walk the walk-of-shame—coming out from behind the piano, Sister Agnes smiling her well-that-certainly-taught-you-never-to-backtalk-a-nun-didn’t-it smirk, while trying to hide the tears welling up from the pain and indignity as all the students did.

Thankfully, in most schools they don’t have the funds to put pianos into classrooms any more, and in most countries I’ve worked there are laws protecting students from nuns. (However, the last country I worked in, in SE Asia, the native teachers really had to mess up a student before the teacher was reprimanded. One teacher lost their job only after hitting a student in the head with a ruler and accidentally slicing off the student’s ear.)

And then, thanks to modern adhesives, someone invented the gold star and a more modern system of student rewards was born. Which leads to the question: What is your classroom reward flavor du jour?

Do you have a points system that you tally on the board? Do you have a gold star system? Do you have a multiple choice foamy sticker collection? Do you let students choose from a toy chest of Super Balls? Do you give the students lollipops or chocolates? Do you give them a cigarette? Or do you find that you don’t need rewards?

Whatever you do, there are scores of other teachers and classroom assistants doing the same thing. The bottom line is if it works for you and your students are constantly improving it’s probably a good thing for you. But, could it be better for them?

As a teacher, in theory, you want to make a difference in your students’ lives—probably to make their lives better. Filling a student with knowledge and curiosity is a common goal amongst educators. Working hand-in-hand with educators to make the students’ lives better are the parents; sometimes a teacher knows the parents and more frequently not.

What if I told you that some of the things listed among the student rewards above are bad for your health and are among the leading causes of death around the world; cause cancer [1]; are a major cause of heart related diseases; are the cause of many dental problems; and are addictive?

You reply, “You did mention cigarettes, and of course I’d never give a cigarette to a student as a reward.”

Of course you wouldn’t. Yet, these health issues which are all directly related to cigarettes are also all directly related to sugar consumption as well.

But one lollipop surely can’t be that bad. Now replace the word lollipop with cigarette.

According to guidelines set forth by the World Health Organization (WHO), people should limit their sugar intake to 5 percent of their total caloric intake to prevent sugar-related health issues that include all the ones mentioned plus dozens more—including diabetes which is a heinous disease in the way it kills people. For an adult that’s 25 grams of sugar or 6 teaspoons per day. For a child the 5 percent applies as well.

In a survey I gave to 80 students in grades 7 to 10, ninety-seven percent said that humans require sugar every day with their answers varying in range from 3 teaspoons to 30 teaspoons per day. When I told them that humans do not require sugar some even had their parents come talk to me because they were so upset. Even at my thesis defense one of the committee members questioned that fact—fortunately, another committee member, an M.D., corroborated my position.

My current school has several teachers who use cigarettes candy as rewards. One gives out 100 gram chocolate bars—another, Chupa Chups lollipops, or something very similar.

One Chupa Chups lollipop weighs 12 grams, and its website says it contains only 10 grams of sugar (but it has 11g of carbohydrates so there is some number fudging going on since carbohydrates are sugars). This means it has 2 grams, 17 percent, of coloring and additives, which is difficult to believe.  So my belief is that it contains 12 grams of sugar, but I’ll humor the official ingredient list and say 11 grams because 11 grams of carbohydrates directly converts to 11 grams of sugar.

Now, if the student is a full-grown 17-year-old, one Chupa Chups would be about half of the WHO limit.  For a first- or second-grader it’s likely the total amount of sugar that student should have for the day. I don’t even want to calculate the 100g chocolate bar into this equation.

If you only give out individual, cello-wrapped candies that weigh 3 grams, is that OK? I can’t say. But I can ask what your job is. Is your job to fill a student’s belly with candy and get them closer to their daily limit of sugar? I propose that your job is to fill students’ heads with valuable, or otherwise, information that’s going to make a difference in their lives not filling their bellies with sugar that may unequally make a difference in their lives, in a deleterious way.

“But I’ve spoken with the parents, and they said it was okay if I give their child a candy during class,” you reply.

Maybe so, but would you give them a cigarette?  What if the parents said it was OK if you give the student a cigarette as a reward; would you do it then? What if the candy you provide is the beginning of a love affair with that candy that leads to their diabetes or cancer.  It may be a far-fetched scenario, but is it impossible?

These reasons are why I prefer to give stickers and stars rather than lollipops and candy bars to my students. Because I don’t know if the parents want me to give their student a lollipop. And I don’t know if the same parents know about the associated cognitive development and health concerns that have come to light with current research into sugar consumption—critical information that would enable them to reach an educated decision concerning the matter.

I don’t know the research on giving students stickers as a reward, but I know research shows that children who eat nutrient deficient food regularly perform worse in exercises requiring cognitive flexibility. And students who eat junk food regularly have lower grade percentage averages (GPA) than students who eat meals prepared at home from unrefined ingredients. One of the ingredients that determine whether a food qualifies as junk food is its sugar content. One Chupa Chup lollipop, a relatively small piece of candy, contains 12g of sugar, half of the WHO ideal for sugar consumption per day for an adult. So, as a group who want our students to succeed, should we be helping them reach their WHO recommended intake of sugar by giving candy as a reward?

For great ideas about rewarding and motivating students follow this link to my alma mater.



Christopher Jones
I came to Beijing to teach after teaching in Thailand for 9 years in primary, middle, and high school. I earned my MAT English, and Diploma in Teacher Education, while in Thailand, spending many weekends commuting back and forth to Bangkok from my home in Hua Hin. I am currently working on my thesis for a Master’s Degree in Scientific and Technical Communication (STC).


WeChat: Mr_C_Jones 


Illustrations by Nichalia Schwartz, All Rights Reserved

Spring 2018 Volunteers for Global Innovative Educators

We’re excited to introduce our first group of semester volunteers for Global Innovative Educators! We’re thrilled and thankful to have this group of passionate, experienced, and dedicated volunteers.

—Resource Managers—

Contact these volunteers for information about getting involved through providing a resource, such as a venue space, workshop, speaker, or materials. 

Summer Li
I love education and have been working in international education for over 7 years. Prior to working in operations and leadership, I was an educator for 5 years. I led teachers’ internal professional development programs and through this introduced advanced and Western educational philosophies, research, teaching methodologies, and best practices for Chinese national educators.

I was responsible for marketing and communications in my former role as Director of Marketing & Communications, and then was transferred to communicating and cooperating with overseas universities, educational institutions and educators to improve the global scope of education. Now, I am a trainer and facilitator, and also a program developer for international education training programs.

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature, a certificate equivalent to a Master’s Degree in Administrative Management, and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. In addition to my work in international education, I research and facilitate workshops related to parental roles in education, cross-cultural communication, organizational management and leadership. I am a Certified Positive Discipline in the Classroom Educator, Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator, have expertise in Non-Violent Communication, and will soon finish my Cognitive Coaching certification.

Fun fact: I cheated the 2-child rule by having twin girls in my second pregnancy and dodged the 200,000 RMB government fine. So, my second-born twin literally was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.


Emerson-Shea April

I have 8 years of teaching experience focusing on music and teaching the full spectrum of the difficult and the gifted. I have a degree in Business, a BA in Humanities with a minor in Business, and a Master’s in Film and Special Effects. I also have a Master’s in TEFL and a teaching certification in Early Childhood Language Learning.

I am an avid reader who is always trying to effect positive change. So much so, I have a letter of recommendation from the mayor of Vancouver for my organization of homeless connect campaigns, and I was invited to dinner with my Canadian Prime Minister during the Super Bowl in 2012 for my dedicated work with the homeless.

Though I no longer teach the autistic and gifted here in Beijing, make movies, or even practice the art of marketing, I have found a treasure more valuable than gold:  a way to apply my meandering life and more than a decade of educational pursuit to bring meaningful education and innovative educational jobs through Innovative Educators. I am grateful to moderate the Innovative Educators Job Groups, helping in my small way to better education.

Fun fact(s): I have a tendency to build things when left alone for too long; I can’t stand to have my feet covered; I was the science advisor to the SFU science cub, and I’m not a science major. We did learn a lot about rockets and first-stage rocket fuel; admittedly, the food dehydrator had design flaws from the beginning; I want to learn programming; I like Walt Whitman;  my favorite author is Terry Pratchett.

You can read more on about me on LinkedIn,  but trust me it’s all dreadfully boring.

—Events Coordinators—

These volunteers will be leading and coordinating future Global Innovative Educators (GIE) events to help our events make an impact on our community and  run smoothly for our speakers and workshop providers.

Winnifred Reid
I am British, but Jamaican by birth. I have a love for children and education. I have been teaching more than 20 years. I taught for 12 years in Jamaica, 14 in London and have been in Beijing since 2016. I enjoy being a part of workshops, love to learn new things, and am happy to share what I know. I am a year-2 teacher at Dulwich College Beijing at present, but looking to move on in August.

Fun fact: I started teaching at age 20, then at 21 I decided that I wanted to be a model as well. I entered my first competition in Jamaica and made it before the judges twice. But when I got chicken pox in the middle of the competition I cried for a long time and had to quit practicing before going in front of them a third time! It could have been the beginning of a new career.

Facebook at Winnifred Reid.

Delphine Huang
I am from Taipei, Taiwan, but have lived in Beijing for 17 years.

I once worked in Aphlevelle Kindergarten in Yangquan as a teacher for 2 years. I didn’t like being so far from civilization. It was too rural, and it had no fruit.

I love fruits of all kinds, but my favorite is cherimoya. If you’ve never had it you need to try it. Mark Twain, the famous American author, said, it’s “the most delicious fruit known to men,” but also to women.

Next to cherimoya, I love languages. One of my hobbies is collecting languages and I can speak Chinese, English and Japanese—my Thai and Vietnamese are works in progress, and I speak a teeny weeny bit of French.

My other hobbies include attempting to draw anime, embroidery, crochet, and volunteering for various causes, including beijingkids and now Innovative Educators.

Fun fact: I wanted to be a mangaka (anime cartoonist) when I was in year 10 but I ended up liking foreign languages.


Vera Madeira
I am Portuguese and have lived in Beijing for the past 10 years. I speak Portuguese, English, French, Spanish and some Mandarin.

I have a degree in Languages and Business Skills, and when I am not translating files, or planning multicultural events, or doing business between Portugal, China, and Africa, I like to watch online training about social media.

In my spare time I like to attend fashion shows, dance with friends, travel, or go for dinner with friends to try the delicious delicacies of restaurants from every foreign country I can find in Beijing.

My biggest passion is to plan events, or to do branding, for products or brands that I myself try and trust. Luckily I have people that trust me and pay me to write posts on my moments and bring their brands with me to promote on a platform called Double Moms and place advertisements on Beijing Subway lines 1, 2 and 10.

Regarding volunteer experience, I worked for MTV Portugal and UEFA; it was the best experience of my life. This is why I like to do volunteer work.

Fun fact: I always try to have time to learn new things—to help others to see life always with a smile on their face because I almost died in 2004. I had an operation to remove 50 stones from my gall bladder. I only had 4% chance to survive, and fortunately I am not paraplegic as I was told this could happen.



—Social Media Managers—

Every team needs social media managers to keep the larger group and the public aware of events, new articles, and respond to questions. 

Susan Qu
I lived in Toronto for 4 years, I studied Medicine for my BA, and I studied Global Logistics and Supply Chain Management for my Postgraduate certificate.

I am an easygoing person with great passion. I aim to promote excellence in education, and to help Chinese students to learn proper English. I hope to make the world a better place.

Fun fact: I have passion for Yi Jing and Traditional Chinese Medicine.


Eurika Michelle Foster
I am from the United States. I moved to Beijing in September 2017 to teach at Yew Chung International School of Beijing. I began teaching in 1999 where I taught Computer Technology to students in grades K-8.

I graduated from Alabama A&M University in 1998 with a BA in Psychology, in 2004 with a MS in Personnel Administration and in May 2010 with a MS in Elementary Education.

In addition to my teaching experience, I have extensive experience outside the classroom—Instructional Rounds, Pacing Guide and Benchmark Committees, Culturally Responsive Trainer, as well as Honors Camp Content Coach for English Language Arts. When available, I was also an adjunct instructor at Calhoun Community College; teaching Developmental Psychology and Orientation classes.

I am avid runner. I have run 3 marathons, 30 half-marathons, and numerous 5ks.

Fun fact: I once had a clown business where I dressed up as a clown, did face painting, danced, and made balloon animals at children’s birthday parties. It was a real sight to see!




Creatives collaborate with the GIE social media mangers and events coordinators along with speakers and workshop providers to introduce forthcoming events. They also  produce articles, videos, graphics, and podcasts in order to share the best practices in education.

Catalina Arciniegas

I am an advocate for art education, although my drawing skills disagree.

Currently, I work as a project coordinator at an international art center for kids in 798, where I get to promote, design and participate in creative events. The best part of my job is getting to meet art educators with diverse styles and specialties. I particularly remember Ana and Ollie, two STOMP-style body percussion artists. I found it inspiring how they ignited children’s imagination and creativity through movement.

During the years I studied for my BA in Psychology, my main interest was the study of language which is why I decided to learn Mandarin. I moved to China in 2015 against all advice from family and friends, whose reference of China was along the lines of Red Sorghum, the 1987 movie. Nevertheless, after proving impressive skills using chopsticks (for Colombian standards), I have now gained approval from my loved ones.

Fun fact: I only watched Star Wars so I would feel comfortable buying a Star Wars t-shirt I really liked.


Rebecca Forbes
“Looking for an adventure?”

That was the tagline of a job ad I spotted in the newspaper in 2008 that prompted me to hop on a plane to Shenyang where I intended to teach English for six months…

Flash-forward to a decade after answering that ad, I’m still here. And the adventure lead me to a passion for educating young children through play-based, multi-sensory and authentic learning experiences—which lead to owning a cozy nursery in the hutongs. I am at the finish line of my Bachelor degree in Educational Studies. The next step is to complete a graduate diploma in Montessori Education (Infant/Toddler Program). The biggest and the best adventure so far is parenting. You can read about it on my blog, One Feeling at a Time.

I joined the Global Innovative Educators group because of the collaborative opportunities that will enable me to learn new skills to become an effective educator of young children. It also provides an opportunity to share my insights from my experiences, as well as resources that will hopefully help other educators create a learning environment that advocates children’s voice, as well as their rights and citizenship in their community.

Fun fact: I love Peter Pan (the O.G. non-Disney version) and my philosophy of children is based on the quote from the story: “Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they, unfortunately, have room for one feeling only at a time.”



Bobby Wayne Jencks
In 2013, I started my career as an educator, and from that time onward, I have been passionately pursuing the art of pedagogy. I continually improve my practice through ongoing education by leveraging digital networks, setting my own professional and educational goals, and keeping myself informed of current educational practices. I am a husband, father of 2, and work and live in Beijing.

I am a digital citizen who utilizes a variety of platforms to collaborate with other educators to design authentic learner-centered environments and to redesign yesterday’s teaching processes to equip tomorrow’s innovators.

Fun fact: I come from a long line of truck drivers, my dad, my mom, my step-dad, and my uncles. In addition, my father named me after himself, so I officially have a nickname as a given name, and my next younger brother is  named Robert in order to perpetuate the Bobby legacy.

WeChat: Bobby_Wayne_Jencks;
Skype: live:bjencks1880_1;

Rebekah Olsen
I am American but grew up in Bangladesh and India.  I enjoyed band in high school where I played the trumpet.  I attended bible college where I began in intercultural studies with a TEFL and changed to Christian Ministry gaining an emphasis in Children’s ministry.  In the end I found myself teaching English to children in China.  Later on I moved to teaching adults, but am considering going back to teaching kindergarten teaching this fall.

People tell me that I connect well with children, write well, and give fantastic back rubs.  The opportunity to volunteer with Innovative Educators seems like the perfect platform to get my feet wet and help me grow and hone my writing.  I enjoy encouraging people, playing games, being a part of BICF church, and learning new things.

Fun fact: I went to high school in a town with a population of 5,000 people. I started teaching in a town in China that had 5,000 students in the high school!


Michael J. Moher
Howdy folks! I love working in education and blending more technology into the classroom. We’ve been using Scratch Jr. to have our grade one students explore phonics through programming. We used Seesaw last semester to practice giving precise, thoughtful, and kind feedback to each other as we drafted a few versions of our projects.

I’ve been in and out of China, starting from 2009 to the present. The endless possibilities and wildness of the city brought me to Beijing and the growth and excitement kept me here.

Come check out the annual Olympic games I’ve organized the past few years for some fun with friends.

I’m looking forward to being on the Innovative Educators team.

Fun fact: I’m an avid concert goer so come join me for some music one night.



Nichalia Schwartz

Nichalia Schwartz
Hi there! I’m Nikki. I work in language and arts in the south of China, where I have lived for nearly a decade.

By day I work in adult second language acquisition. I’ve written materials for various institutions, as well as recorded and edited EFL and test prep audio. I have a CELTA, DELTA, and I am wrapping up an MA in Applied Linguistics. I think it is interesting and disturbing how big the gap is between modern theories and research, and what happens in real classrooms. Teachers are the ones who need to be the best informed, but how much access do they have to current research? Not enough, I think. I’ll be happy if I can help narrow that gap.

By night I sing (and arrange) a cappella, do freelance voiceover from my home studio, and make illustrations for all sorts of purposes. I made the art on this page, for example.

“I like discovering new ways to go about old problems.”

Fun fact: I play video games. Add Nikki Nornlegs on Guild Wars 2.

WeChat: nichalia001
Personal art blog:
Personal website:

Eli Walker
I’m an educator currently on hiatus from teaching to continue studying. Before returning to study, I counseled at-risk teens in North Carolina, taught upper-primary English at a bilingual school in Beijing and did a bit of everything at a Chinese high school’s international program. For now, I’m finishing my thesis for a Chinese-language MA in comparative education at Beijing Normal University, focusing on cross-cultural learning adaptations. In general, I’m interested in everything education, from pedagogy to curriculum development to administration to counseling. I love writing, educating and volunteering, and I’m excited to do all at the same time with Innovative Educators.

Fun fact: I once got carried away playing dodge-ball on a trampoline. In the end, I might have torn a tendon in my ankle, but I did win the game. My then-fiancée/now-wife, who I had met through swing dance, was especially unhappy about it, though; I could only get around on crutches for one month before our swing dance-themed wedding and honeymoon at a week-long Swedish dance camp.


Christopher Jones

I like early primary because there is a lot of positivity, and daydreaming is expected.  I use their attention as a gauge to know when I need to change up the lesson. Depending on the lunar cycle it could be every few minutes, but if I’m lucky and it’s a topic they are really, into it may be as long as 15.

I came to Beijing to teach after teaching in Thailand for 9 years in primary, middle, and high school. While I love the earlier years I find that students in high school get my jokes more frequently, though I still found I was the only one laughing at my jokes on a few occasions.

I earned my MAT English, and Diploma in Teacher Education, while in Thailand, spending many weekends commuting back and forth to Bangkok from my home in Hua Hin. I am currently working on my thesis for a Master’s Degree in Scientific and Technical Communication (STC).

Fun fact: I love stinky cheeses, and have only met one that was too stinky for me; it was a ripe Munster I bought in Amsterdam. It was wonderfully strong straight out of the store’s cooler spread on to a crusty baguette in the morning, but as it warmed up I had to move it out of the 5th-floor apartment. By evening the aroma was so strong I had to move it to a garbage bin outside, and by the next morning, before the garbage truck mercifully appeared, the smell hung like a haze through the whole neighborhood.

WeChat: Mr_C_Jones

Brad Walsh
I am ETU School’s Vice Principal in charge of Project Based Learning Curriculum Development and English Teaching. Throughout my teaching career, I have been specializing in developing positive psychology in children through STEAM-based (Science, Engineering, Art, Technology and Mathematics) activities, and have even written and published textbooks with my team in these subject areas.

Prior to joining ETU, I was the co-founder and chief curriculum designer for the AiTuPo Positive Youth Development program with Raising Culture. In this program, my team and I helped thousands of students understand their potential as community leaders and global citizens through inspiring educational programs.

I hold a degree in Business Administration and Marketing, a Master’s in Educational Leadership from the University of Roehampton, and am finishing my thesis for a Master’s Degree in Gifted and Specialized Education from National Taiwan Normal University.

Fun fact: I am a strong advocate for “authenticity” in learning as I took French for 10 years growing up, but am unable to string together a full, comprehensible sentence when speaking. However, I received a certificate of Mandarin fluency (speaking and reading) after just two years of self-taught Chinese while living in Taiwan.



—Founder and Volunteer—

Reach out to any of the volunteers above, or if unsure about who to turn to, contact Vanessa to be connected  with the appropriate volunteer. 

Vanessa Jencks
I often start things I never finish; projects, exercise programs, books, etc. I intended Innovative Educators to be one of those things. I started the first WeChat collaboration group to connect educators in Beijing for the purpose of raising the bar of education in the city. I was shocked that the group grew to include educators from all around China and a few from other parts of the globe.

Really I attribute the growth to all of the educators who are involved. They are the fuel for collaboration; I am just a facilitator to keep the group on point and focused.

I started in education field as an Early Childhood Educator and completed the Teach-Now teacher certification program. My passion for education was set ablaze through this program along with being equipped with cross-disciplinary skills. Beyond education, I’ve published work in anthologies and became the managing editor of beijingkids magazine for a time. I volunteer as fiction editor of InkBeat and started several blogs. Currently I work in Human Resources at Beijing SMIC School and Kindergarten in Yizhuang, Daxing, a quaint little suburb with lots of high-tech developments on the south-side of Beijing.

Fun fact:  I’m currently learning to ice skate along with my children because I’ve always wanted to learn. Wearing a dress and twirling on ice really is just as magical of a feeling as it looks. I can’t deny ice skating brings out my inner uber-girly-child.


WeChat: vanessajencks


Christopher Jones
I came to Beijing to teach after teaching in Thailand for 9 years in primary, middle, and high school. I earned my MAT English, and Diploma in Teacher Education, while in Thailand, spending many weekends commuting back and forth to Bangkok from my home in Hua Hin. I am currently working on my thesis for a Master’s Degree in Scientific and Technical Communication (STC).


WeChat: Mr_C_Jones 


Illustrated by Nichalia Schwartz, Rights Reserved