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Every Student Leads at WDMCS “Leader in Me” Schools

When a second grade Jordan Creek Elementary student began experiencing separation anxiety, school staff worked with her parents to give her a job. Each morning, she assists a kindergarten teacher for a few minutes before going to her own class. Thanks to this leadership opportunity, the student’s separation anxiety faded. She became eager to start school each day and help the kindergartners counting on her.

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The 7 Habits tree from The Leader in Me.

The strategy was part of the school’s The Leader in Me program, a “whole school transformation process” developed by FranklinCovey. The program is tied to the 7 Habits of Happy Kids, a kid-friendly version of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It focuses on development in three areas—culture, leadership, and academics—and teaches “21st-century leadership and life skills to students and creates a culture of student empowerment based on the idea that every child can be a leader.” The Leader in Me was first implemented in 2014-15 at Westridge and in 2015-16 at Jordan Creek. Both schools credit staff and families for being driving forces behind the program’s success at their schools.

“Leader in Me is really driven by our teachers,” Westridge Principal Nathan Ballagh said. “They’ve invested in this and taken huge risks for this in teaching and learning. I give all the credit to the staff. They’ve taken this on because they knew it was best for our students.”

One hundred percent of Jordan Creek staff said they wanted to make The Leader in Me part of Jordan Creek in a survey completed after a study of the “7 Habits” book. Parents also committed to The Leader in Me program after participating in a parent book study.

“Our parents asked great questions,” said Tamara Tjeerdsma, assistant principal at Jordan Creek and Westridge. “They really were catalysts to move things forward.”

With staff and family support, Westridge and Jordan Creek worked to internalize The Leader in Me habits and establish shared understanding with the entire school community. Now a few years into the program, students are fully involved and programming has become more robust. Any student can apply for a leadership role, from sharing the announcements in the morning to greeting school visitors or providing technology support. Activities that used to be facilitated by teachers, like assemblies and conferences, are now led by students.

“Every decision goes back to a student committee or group,” Jordan Creek teacher Katie Hoover said. “They’re really figuring out how to guide (progress).”

Students and families at both schools are showing unprecedented engagement and school pride since The Leader in Me implementation. Jordan Creek and Westridge say it is because The Leader in Me has helped them find ways to give every child a chance to be a leader at school.

“That’s what we try to do for all of our students is show them they are needed,” Jordan Creek School Counselor Barb Tigges said. “We want them to know, ‘This school won’t be the same without you here.’”