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This is episode #63 with Hans Appel, who has been a school counselor from Richland SD, WA for the past 19 years and is the author of the NEW book, Award Winning Culture: Building School-Wide Intentionality Through Character, Excellence and Community[i]  that you can find RIGHT NOW on Amazon. My husband has worked closely with this District when he was a Regional VP of Sales with Scholastic and he agrees that they go above and beyond with everything they do, and it’s not surprising to hear that they emerged as International Thought Leaders over there but there’s much more to this story than meets the eye. I look forward to sharing Hans’ background and story for those who would like to replicate Award Winning Culture in their school, workplace or organization. Click here to watch the YouTube interview. 

Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, I’m a former educator who created this podcast to bring the most current neuroscience research, along with high performing experts who have risen to the top of their field with specific strategies or ideas that you can implement immediately, whether you are a teacher in the classroom, a parent trying to figure out homeschooling and working from home,  or someone working in the corporate world, to take your results to the next level.

Today we are speaking with Hans Appel, has worked as a counselor in the Richland School District for the past 19 years at Enterprise Middle School since it opened.  He’s passionate about school culture, servant leadership, and kindness.  In 2018, EMS was awarded the ASCD Whole Child Award for the State of Washington and the Global “Class Act Award” for creating a culture of excellence through kindness, service, and empathy.  Additionally, the were selected as a finalist in the 2019 PBIS Film Festival and took top prize in the Community, Parents, and Staff category.

When I first spoke with Hans, just last week, to learn more about his background and new book, his humble nature came through. It wasn’t until last night, when I started to read his book “Award Winning Culture” that just became available last Friday, that I got to know and truly understand where Hans’ passion for building school-wide culture emerged from. I could go on with Hans’ bio, but will include more details in the show notes, and urge you to read his book yourself, and his website[ii] where you can learn more about Hans’s story, and about his wife Jen, who is an educator at Enterprise MS. Welcome Hans!

Q1: Hans, when we were speaking last week, you were telling me how all of this started but we didn’t speak at all about your personal story that you share in the beginning of your book.  For anyone looking to understand how change takes place, I do highly suggest reading this book to get a deeper understanding with someone who has grown up firsthand with ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences). Before we get to the questions, can you share how you used your difficult upbringing to fuel your passion for change within your local school District?

Q2: Can you explain how this all began at Enterprise Middle School that caused you to write your book, Award Winning Culture and create the framework around what you did to cause such an international interest?

Q3: Hans, I’m familiar with how important it is to infuse SEL skills into a school, home and emotional intelligence training in our workplaces, with what we’ve been doing here, but many schools or workplaces are not sure how to begin, where to even get started with a program. Can you give some ideas of where someone can start to implement award winning culture within their school or organization to reap the benefits that will follow with a program like yours?

Q4: Imagine a school or an organization that has not yet implemented a program, and they are well aware that change needs to occur. The part in your book about the reporter crying when she “felt” the energy of your school and asked “why aren’t all schools like yours?” made me think of the fact that I have walked into thousands of schools in the US/Canada over my 20 year career working with schools and that reporter was right. When you see or get that “feeling” that’s hard to explain, but it’s there…usually right when you walk in the front doors (sometimes it can be felt before you walk in) but it’s hard to forget a school like this. What’s involved in changing a school or organization from where they are now, and get them to where they want to be to experience what we know can be felt? I’m sure this change takes time, so what is the process?

Q5: Most of us by now are aware of Simon Sinek’s book or TED TALK “Starts with Why” where an organization must have a clear understanding of their “why” before they can make a larger impact with their goals. Once they know WHY they are there, the HOW and WHAT they do becomes simple. What is YOUR “Why” and how do you identify, and tie in a school’s purpose (the foundation) and ensure that all stakeholders are on board with this purpose for existing?

Q6: Is there anything that’s important to mention that you think we have missed?

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us and share your powerful story of creating Award Winning Culture in a school or workplace. Your story could have gone 2 ways as we are all well aware of the effects of ACES on a child’s future, but you used your experience to fuel for something that has, I think only just begun for you. I want to recognize you for doing the work to get to where you are today,  (because I know work was involved) and thank you for the impact you are having not just locally in your state, but across the country and internationally. If someone wants to reach you directly, I will put all of the links in show notes and be sure to find the book, Award Winning Culture on Amazon and contact you to learn more about your programs and services for implementing Award Winning Culture. Thank you!

Hans can be contacted at  Follow Hans on twitter @HansNAppel. Follow AWC on twitter at @awculture @awcpodcasting or Instagram @awardwinningculture.Wildcat Nation on Instagram @emscounseling #WildcatNation #AwardWinningCulture


In 2018, Hans launched his own blog about School Culture and rolled out a student-led leadership podcast called Award Winning Culture: Hosted by Wildcat Nation, which can be subscribed, listened or reviewed on iTunes Apple PodcastsStitcherGoogle PlaySpotifyPodBean, and Libsyn.   Hans’ blogs have appeared on DisruptED TV magazineCharacterStrong, and PBIS Rewards.  He’s written social-emotional lessons for CharacterStrong.  He has also been featured on numerous educational podcasts speaking his brand of school culture into existence.   He’s been a contributing writer on three upcoming educational books: “ Define Your WHY: Own Your Story So You Can Live and Learn On Purpose,” “Reflective Impact Journal,” and “ALL IN: Taking a Gamble in Education.”  Hans’ own book about school culture was just released on Amazon on May 22nd. Hans is the Director of Culture for the Teach Better Team and a member of the coveted Teach Better Speakers Network.  He presents at conferences, schools, and districts all over the country.  Topics include: Creating an Award Winning Culture, Amplifying Student Voice, Student-Led Podcasting, and Infusing Servant Leadership through PBIS. He can be contacted at  Follow Hans on twitter @HansNAppel. Follow AWC on twitter at @awculture @awcpodcasting or Instagram @awardwinningculture.Wildcat Nation on Instagram @emscounseling #WildcatNation #AwardWinningCulture


[i] Award  Winning Culture: Building School-Wide Intentionality and Action Through Character, Excellence and Community by Hans Appel (May 22, 2020)