BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) —  “Mr. Hills stands by his word and whatever he said to the school community he’s going to follow through and it’s an excellent example for our students and our school,” said Debbie Krystofik, Waterfront Elementary School teacher.

Principal David Hills never saw himself getting a tattoo but thought it’d be a fun way to motivate students.

“I’d see kids looking at each question and the teacher would say okay how many more of you would have to get this question right in order for Mr. Hills to get the tattoo. So it started to help us in just looking at data and starting to motivate the students,” said David Hills, Water Elementary School Principal.

The Waterfront Elementary School in Buffalo was previously one of the lowest performing schools in the district. Hills told students if they could beat the districts’ average scores in all grade levels on state tests, he’d get a tattoo of a lighthouse, the school’s logo. Slowly but surely, he noticed the school was making gains.

“We went from about 7 percent proficient in both math and ELA and now we’re up to about 16 percent proficient. Enough gains that we went from a priority school last year to a school in good standing the only school in the district that made that jump,” said Hills.

To Hills surprise and content, students won the bet.

“That was done with a collaborative effort of his leadership skills as well as the teachers at Waterfront,” said Krystofik.

Hills says his lighthouse tattoo is a symbol of seeing the light and steering toward it through stormy seas, which is what he believes they did together, as a school.

“It’s important for communities, learning communities, any kind of community to kind of set their best goal and celebrate when they achieve it,” said Hills.

Hills got his tattoo done at Divine Machine Tattoo on Elmwood. He plans to reveal his tattoo to students and faculty on Monday.