By Sue Moore
With fundraising and staff training completed, Sunset Lake Elementary’s administration and staff are ready to launch a “Leader in Me” program to improve student self-confidence and achievement.
“We were able to raise $80,000 in the 2015-16 school year for our three-year commitment to start the program,” said Principal Amie McCaw. “The Vicksburg community is such is an amazing place and so generous!”
McCaw described the program last year in a pitch to trustees of the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation: “This is a new way to operate the school. It is transforming. It involves teachers, students and families. It is an embedded approach in the curriculum, not something separate.” She was seeking $25,000.
She got it. The program was also supported by the Vicksburg Foundation with $40,000 and more from the Sunset PTSO, the school district, a family donation and a local business.
The funds paid for 50 staff members to be trained this past summer in the program developed by the late Stephen R. Covey, author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” It also incorporates principles of a book written by his son, Sean Covey, entitled the “Seven Habits of Happy Kids”.
The program will be implemented over the next three years to help teach Sunset Lake’s 500-plus students those seven habits. McCaw instituted the Leader in Me program in Schoolcraft Elementary when she became principal of that school four years ago. It has been well accepted there and when she moved to Sunset Lake as principal, it was with the understanding that she would seek funding to start afresh at Sunset Lake. But it wouldn’t work unless the staff adopted the program. The staff did a book study of the Leader principles. By December of 2015, all voted to go forward.
The program is based upon the seven habits, with an eighth added more recently. They are:
- Be proactive, i.e., by not being reactive.
- Begin with the end in mind – set goals.
- Put first things first.
- Think win-win.
- Seek first to understand, then be understood.
- Sharpen the saw.
- Find your own voice.
“Covey teaches 21st century life skills. They are initiative and self-direction, leadership and responsibility, celebrate where kids get to shine and traditions are built,” McCaw explained. “Data shows that the program improves kids’ self-confidence, student achievement goes up, there is an increase in teachers’ job satisfaction, and it results in delighted and involved parents.”
The leadership team McCaw formed in the building to kick start the Leader in Me is composed of Angie Getsinger, Aubrie Burns, Laura Chang, Alicia Zagar, Amanda Lewis, Melissa Wilson, Chris VanderMei and McCaw. “It will make us all better and it will make a change in the community,” she told the VCSF board.
“It’s a new paradigm where every child is a leader. It teaches kids to be good citizens. We find out what kids like and are passionate about. We listen to kids’ voices. It’s more of a mind-set. Think win-win by taking responsibility for their own behavior. It takes commitment, hard work, but it is an empowerment,” McCaw said.