Ray Huard …. Two elementary schools in the Vista Unified School District have been chosen from among hundreds across the country to receive grants to implement a program aimed at teaching children as young as kindergarteners how to become leaders.
“Every child will have a leadership role in the school, every child will have something they do to make the school a better place,” said Monte Vista Elementary School Principal Charlene Smith.
That can be anything from being school ambassadors who greet visitors and guide them around campus to raising money for a worthy cause, Smith said.
Monte Vista and Temple Heights Elementary School have each been awarded grants of $45,400 from Leader.org to train teachers and put into practice a “Leader in Me” program which teaches leadership skills such as being proactive, setting goals and listening before speaking.
“The ‘Leader in Me’ program fits perfectly with Temple Heights’ focus on personalized learning and teaching to each student’s strengths,” said Temple Heights Principal Kim Morton.
“We believe that each and every student is capable and should be built up as a leader,” Morton said. “’The Leader in Me” program teaches students the skills they need for academic success in any setting, both in the classroom and beyond. The skills include critical thinking, goal setting, listening and speaking, self-directed learning, presentation-making and the ability to work in groups.”
According to its website, Leader.org is an independent grant-making charity dedicated to providing programs and services that build character and leadership in students in public elementary and middle schools.
Funding for the grants from Leader.org to pay for the “Leader in Me” program was provided by the Panda Charitable Foundation of the Panda Restaurant Group.
The “Leader in Me” program was developed by the Utah-based company of FranklinCovey, which sells education and self-improvement material.
“These students will have the opportunity to learn and apply leadership and life skills, such as responsibility, social etiquette, teamwork, communication, creative thinking, and problem solving, to name a few,” said Sean Covey, FranklinCovey education practice leader. “Learning these skills now will not only help them be successful in school, but in every area of their life.”
The “Leader in Me” program focuses on what it calls the seven habits of healthy kids – be proactive, begin with the end in mind, think win-win by seeking solutions that work for all sides, seek first to understand then be understood, value other people’s strength’s and learn from them, and “sharpen the saw” by eating right, exercising, spending time with family and finding meaningful ways to help others.
“It’s empowering kids at a very young age to make choices and think about their choices,” said Monte Vista kindergarten teacher Cindy Speakman. “They’ll have leadership notebooks where they’ll keep track of what they’re learning and make goals for themselves.
Lesson plans have students thinking early on “what kind of people they want to be and how they want to solve problems,” Speakman said.
Some of the seven habits are things students can quickly apply in school and at home, she said, like resolving playground conflicts or putting first things first by doing homework before playing with friends.
“I want to use them in my life right now: What do I want to do?” Speakman said, “what are my goals, and am I really taking the steps necessary to reach my goal?”