Students and teachers at Hannah Cole Primary have been inspired by Ruben's song, and sang it with him over Skype last year. Now, they'll have the chance to sing along with him in person.

Jesse Ruben, whose song “We Can” has inspired students and teachers at Hannah Cole Primary, is coming to Boonville on Feb. 11.

The Philadelphia-born and Brooklyn-based singer will play assemblies at New Franklin Elementary, Hannah Cole and Pilot Grove during the day. He will return to Hannah Cole to play a show at 6:30 p.m., which the community is invited to attend.

Hannah Cole will open after 5 p.m. for a “ceiling tile paint party,” where families can pay $20 to paint one of the school’s ceiling tiles. Walking tacos will also be available for $2 each. Money raised by both will be used to help cover the cost of Ruben’s trip, which is sponsored by the Hannah Cole Parent-Teacher Organization. If you’re interested in painting a ceiling tile, e-mail Nicole Ueligger at nicole.ueligger@boonville.k12.mo.us.

Ruben was originally scheduled to play on Jan. 14, but a major snowstorm caused schools to close, and the event was rescheduled.

Ruben wrote he’s excited to visit Boonville. “I think right now it is so important to encourage students to try new things, and to teach them the impact of giving back,” he stated in a news release. “I am grateful to be welcomed into your community, and can’t wait to see what you guys have come up with.”

Hannah Cole Principal Leslie Reardon said teacher Natalie Dixon came across Ruben’s song “We Can” last year, and forwarded it around the school. Reardon said the song, which is about helping others and believing in yourself even when others doubt you, gave her goosebumps and inspired her and others to think about what they could do to improve relationships with others.

Dixon used the song as part her class’s morning routine, then other classes picked it up. The children loved it, Reardon said, so the second-graders started to learn it in music class. The school talked with Ruben over Skype, and the second grade sang “We Can” along with him. It was a magical moment, Reardon said, and it didn’t leave a dry eye in the room.

The song fit in with the teaching philosophy at Hannah Cole, where teachers have encouraged students to help each other during difficult times. Along with fundamentals like reading and writing, social skills are important for young students to learn and practice, Reardon said.

The school has been encouraging “conscious discipline” for about three years now, she said. Teachers encourage students to think and reflect so they can calmly handle difficult situations and support other students through challenges.

The school has established a “wishing well” where students will leave encouraging notes for students who are out sick.

Reardon said seeing students helping each other without a teacher getting involved first is gratifying. “It’s about building relationships and understanding how we’re pre-wired to react in certain ways,” she said.

School staff also developed “gratitude spots,” which are spots on the floor where someone will stand and talk about something for which they’re grateful. There’s one in the gym, and Reardon said she starts many morning assemblies by stepping onto the spot herself. After she says what she’s grateful for, students volunteer.

bcrowley@gatehousemedia.com