Leadership skills boost kids’ behavior, success

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Students at Kyrene de la Mirada learned leadership skills and more in a program that has led to improved performance–and behavior–at the school.

By Diana Whittle

Look out President Trump—youth at Mirada Elementary in Chandler now understand leadership skills and stand ready to be accountable for their academic achievement and behavior.

If this seems like a tall order, given the students’ tender ages—between kindergarten and fifth grade— Kyrene de la Mirada principal Nancy Branch says the elementary students have mastered traits usually reserved for adults through a program called the “Leader in Me.”

The principles behind the Leader-in-Me philosophy are drawn from a wide-variety of social-emotional learning and other respected educational models. As a result of adopting the Leader-in-Me program, Mirada was named a “Lighthouse School,” by Franklin Covey, the organization who created the program and is also known for the “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Branch said, “We are honored to become a Leader in Me Lighthouse School. We have seen such amazing results from implementing the Leaderin-Me process at our school, such as improved academic ownership, an increase in student confidence and a decrease in negative student behaviors.”

The Lighthouse Milestone is a highly regarded standard set by Franklin Covey. The attainment of the Lighthouse Milestone represents a significant benchmark, and it is evidence that a high standard has been met by a school.

Applying for the Lighthouse Milestone typically occurs three to five years after a school begins the Leader-in-Me curriculum.

Kyrene de la Mirada Elementary joins 262 schools nationwide that hold the Lighthouse designation and is one of only two in Arizona.

Branch says that Mirada teachers are seeing first-hand a more positive classroom environment and that students participate in goal setting, data tracking and learning the value of leadership roles. “All students set goals and track their behavior performance in order to celebrate their accomplishments or to make adjustments for the future.

“In addition to behavior goals, all students also set individual, class, and school-wide WIGS (Wildly Important Goals) at the beginning of the year and revisit and revise these goals consistently throughout the year.  Because they are tracked individually and posted as a whole class, and revisited, students can see the growth—which is encouraging to them and allows them to strive to meet their goals,” said Branch.

Mirada kindergarten teacher Kirstin Williams, recently shared that she believes that the reason all her students mastered their reading goals this year is because of their enthusiasm and excitement each day as they tracked their progress on a classroom bar graph.

“Data is posted in every classroom, so growth is easily visible and students are truly empowered to be in charge of their own behavior and learning.”

Another kindergarten teacher, Sarah Hesse, also gives the program a ringing endorsement.

“This is my fourth year teaching and using the Seven Habits approach and I couldn’t imagine teaching without this amazing program. I not only see value in this program, but I see results.

“I’ve seen kids that start the year off shy, lacking confidence, or struggling behaviorally, and by the end of the year they are totally different kids. They become strong, independent leaders that are more than capable of anything they set their minds to.

“It teaches children that they matter in this world, they can succeed in anything they give effort towards, and that they can make a difference. I truly believe this program can help each child take charge of their learning, behavior, and help them to go on to do great things in their life.”

Branch says she knows many Mirada teachers who have incorporated the Seven Habits into their own lives; but, was pleasantly surprised when she learned the thoughts of a kindergartner, Alice, whose parents sent an email.

“Alice’s mother shared a story with me that her daughter was explaining to her aunt and uncle, who are visiting from New York, how she was practicing for a performance at her school.

“She said that ‘Mirada is a place where people synergize. It’s helpful there and we experience kindness and peace.’ Those words came out of the mouth of a kindergartner,” said Branch.

“It seems that Alice has taken the school’s proclamation to heart, which is ‘Great Happens Here!”

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