We are thankful for the opportunity to work with 23 schools in the Cedar Valley region. This month’s school feature is Orange Elementary School. Each month, we have the opportunity to ask questions to schools in our region about the impact of Leader Valley and Leader in Me.

What paradigms are integral to creating a leadership culture at your school?

Overall we believe that all 5 paradigms are integral to creating a leadership culture at our school. This year, however, the paradigm: “Change begins with me” rose straight to the top of the list. There is so much change that we are navigating as humans (big humans and little humans) this year that if we don’t purposely focus on it beginning with each of us, it is super easy to get lost in the negative aspects of it! As a school, we really had to think creatively to put things in place this year as COVID mitigation took over our lives and caused us to pull back many of the “business as usual” things that we have been accustomed to.

Orange Elementary Waterloo

Staff at Orange Elementary shared, “Leader of the Month Luncheon, sponsored by our Partners in Education. We just changed up our location and spread ourselves out, and still were able to honor our change-makers each month!”

Despite these changes, we were able to figure out a few of our traditions and keep them alive:

  1. Leader of the Month Luncheon, sponsored by our Partners in Education.  We just changed up our location and spread ourselves out, and still were able to honor our change-makers each month!
  2. Terrific Tiger Celebration:  This used to be a culminating breakfast that families came in to celebrate their tigers with us.  This year, we honor them at lunchtime, with individually packaged gifts and pictures with ROARy.  He even has his mask on!
  3. Teachers are still creating class/personal mission statements and “safety” is embedded throughout many of them this year!
  4. We cannot have families in our buildings yet, that’s ok!  We will bring some holiday spirit to you! Free coffee and hot chocolate at morning arrival!
  5. We can still have fun, even though we are staying in our spaces.
Orange Elementary

Orange Elementary teachers shared messages with students to encourage them as they navigate the difficult changes in their homes and schools.

Despite all the changes to the classrooms, to the school, with who can come in our buildings and who cannot yet, with sharing and spacing, our teachers find a way!  They still engage kids in learning and relationships!  We are so thankful for what they do!!

What are your school’s “big rocks” as it relates to creating a leadership culture? 

Our biggest rock is to find the leader in all who cross over our threshold. To do this we want to provide any opportunity possible for our kids to take the lead on things that us adults do not necessarily need to worry about.

What does this look like?

  1. Classroom jobs, school-wide jobs
  2. Individualized jobs based on the strengths and interest of our students
  3. Celebrations of leadership as it is spotted in our school
  4. Opportunities for our students to have a voice in the activities, events, and decisions made.

This list of things has been hard this year due to mitigation and COVID responses that we had to put into place. We can definitely feel this in our building this year. Kids feel disconnected from it all and like that have lost their voice. Our teachers, honestly, I think have moments of these feelings as well. LIM/Leadership culture is threaded through each of us, so when one of us feels it, the rest of us feel it. We are always thinking of ways to find our way back to voice, choice, leadership and inspiration!

What are the results you have seen as it relates to leadership, culture, and academics?

The results we have seen over the years of being a LIM school are empowered students, empowered staff, and a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves.

Orange Elmentary

Holiday spirit day at Orange Elementary with fun socks.

These are the big picture results that we can always drill down. We have seen students escalated behavior significantly drop because someone saw something different in them and put them in charge of something. We have seen passion ignite in students, for example, for recycling, because we put them in charge of the recycling imitative we have here. We have seen students reading fluency and confidence level increase because we gave an opportunity to be a speaker in front of an audience. I have seen teachers find strengths in children that have never been found, due to the paradigm in which they see humans.

What are a few key stories that illustrate the impact of Leader in Me for students?

We mentioned earlier that a student came to us with quite a record of some significant behaviors. The teacher that impacted him really broke down some barriers by first wiping that slate clean (in her head), cultivating a relationship of trust and dignity, then giving him the opportunity to lead. What was that? He did some of our morning announcements. He gave a book talk, which was a choice in the library where kids got to read a book and “sell” it on the intercom through a book talk.

These actions steps led to decreased behaviors and in fact no witness to the behaviors we were told about. When we learned that his family was moving he was so sad. When asked about what he was going to miss the most he said, “You guys let me be a leader!” Our interpretation of that one statement: Someone saw something in him, that no one else took the time to see, from his perspective. And that made all the difference in the world to him!

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