Schools using new leadership program

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Campbellsville, Taylor County schools use Leader in Me program

By Calen McKinney



When students head back to school in a few days, they won't just be learning their core subjects. They will also learn to become leaders.

Students at Campbellsville and Taylor County schools will participate in the Leader in Me program this year, based on author Stephen Covey's book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." The habits are listed in a sidebar to this story.

As part of the Race to the Top Grant, which both public districts received, the Leader in Me initiative will help staff members implement leadership values in students.

In addition to routine summer cleaning and other improvement projects, the local public schools have undergone facelifts in the form of murals painted to help students learn Covey's seven habits. And teachers are undergoing training to use those habits in the classroom.

At Taylor County Elementary School, Vice Principal Melissa Long said the seven habits are basic life principles all people should use when making choices or faced with challenges.

"It is our hope that embedding the seven habits language into our daily instruction will produce well rounded critical thinkers," she said.

"I am excited to start teaching the habits and watching our students live up to their inner potential as learners and citizens."

Long said parents will likely soon hear their children telling them about the habits, which all encourage people to be proactive.

Campbellsville Middle School Principal Elisha Rhodes said her school has taken the Leader in Me initiative and ran with it.

"To me, the middle school is on fire with it," she said.

Rhodes said she and her teachers visited other schools already using the Leader in Me program to see what they might be able to do at CMS. And, she said, there has been no shortage of ideas.

Teachers have been painting murals to help their students learn the habits, she said. The murals are designed as puzzle pieces, showing that the seven habits work together.

"Each habit is it's own piece," she said. "Put together, it makes a person."

Teachers have been encouraged to be creative with their classroom designs, Rhodes said, and make their rooms reflective of their personality. She said she hopes to have a ribbon cutting ceremony soon for parents and students to see their newly redesigned school.

"The halls look totally different," she said.

Through the Leader in Me program, Rhodes said, CMS students will be encouraged to be accountable for their actions and keep up with their grades and test scores in a notebook.

Each student will receive about 40 minutes of leadership training each day. Rhodes said she hopes her school will host leadership events and luncheons and invite community and business leaders to attend.

Students will apply for jobs at those events and be interviewed to receive invitations to participate in and attend the luncheons.

Rhodes said Covey has been quoted as saying students might not be successful years from now because they scored well on a test. Being a success is determined based on how a student handles obstacles.

While academics are always important, she said, the Leader in Me program will help students intrinsically want to better themselves.

"It's going to prepare them for the future," Rhodes said. "All the energy we have going forward is very exciting."

Rhodes said employers today want workers who will show up on time, work well with others and know how to solve problems. Leader in Me will help students with that.

" ... Creating that well-rounded leadership individual," she said. "It's going to be good for our community."

Rhodes said her teachers attended training for the Leader in Me program and said they felt they like they were better people at the end of each day.

"They said, 'I can't wait to teach the kids ... so they can feel that way.'"

Any businesses or individuals who want to help CMS with its leadership events can call the school at (270) 465-5121.

"It's about creating leadership and accountability for what you're choosing to do on a daily basis."

Eventually, Rhodes said, she hopes her school will become a Lighthouse School that can teach others to use the Leader in Me program. There are few Lighthouse Schools, she said, and she believes none in Kentucky.

At Taylor County Middle School, Principal Tony Jewell said his teachers are undergoing Leader in Me training this week. Friday will be the last day.

The overall goal, Jewell said, is to connect with students and instill values in them.

Most of the habits refer to actions people already do in their everyday life, but Jewell said it never hurts to learn more about them. And he hopes parents will also learn to see how important the habits are.

"I mean, it's good for anyone," he said.

Jewell said work has been done to paint murals to help students learn the habits.

"It's very student-generated," he said. "We want students to buy in."

At Campbellsville Elementary School, Principal Ricky Hunt said his teachers plan to teach the seven habits during the first few weeks of school and then reinforce them throughout the year.

"This will be a complete culture change for our school, staff, and students," he said. "Absolutely, the program will be extremely beneficial to our students, as well as our staff, parents and community, because it teaches all the ideas of building on individuals strengths and finding leadership potential in all involved."

Hunt said his school is in midst of a complete facelift, with all the walls being painted and several murals being designed.

"Our plan is to continue these mural and scenes throughout the building to promote leadership and accomplishments of our students.

"We are looking to make our building more kid-friendly and welcoming to parents and community. We want our school to show everyone walking into our building to see the leadership abilities of every student in our building, and every student can make a difference."

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

1. Be proactive

2. Begin with the end in mind

3. Put first things first

4. Think win-win

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood

6. Synergize

7. Sharpen the saw