Class Notes: Veterans Memorial Elementary starts ‘Leader in Me’ program

If you consider yourself to be highly organized, I’m wondering if you got that way on your own or did you have some help? Maybe you follow the “Covey method” as many do. It’s the outgrowth of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the famous book written by Stephen R. Covey (famous in that 20 million copies have been sold worldwide).

The Wall Street Journal has called it “the most influential book of the century.” The focus is on management of our time – important to all of us, including our students.

Those attending Veterans Memorial Elementary School know the importance of it thanks to “The Leader in Me” program that’s in place there. Principal Tim Ferguson calls it “a process of teaching students personal leadership development and 21st century life skills such as goal setting, teamwork, problem solving, respecting diversity and life balance, and of course, time management.”

The Leader in Me involves everyone at the North Naples school community – all students, teachers and staff members, and parents, according to Ferguson.

“Founded in ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ the program uses principles of leadership development to support the academic and emotional development of all students,” Ferguson said.

Students learn to be proactive, to begin with the end in mind, to put first things first, to think “win-win,” to seek first to understand before being understood, and to synergize. They learn to assume responsibility and to practice collaboration and cross-cultural skills while engaging in meaningful work. They learn to be creative and have fun while paying attention to body, mind, heart, and spirit. So what does all of this mean for Veterans Memorial students?

“Students gain confidence from learning new skills,” says Ferguson. “Their self-confidence comes from being given leadership responsibilities and from frequently being recognized as unique and important.”

This program or project, if you will, turns the school environment into a leadership development environment.

“The end result,” Ferguson stresses, “is that we will see increased student learning and achievement in all academic areas, and our students will be prepared to be successful in the 21st century.”

All classrooms have developed classroom mission statements that are aligned with the school and district missions. And the next step in all of this for the Veterans Memorial school community – student-led conferences set for Oct. 11. Then students will share their individual personal mission statement and leadership plans with their parents or guardians.

Ferguson welcomes visitors to his school to see this leadership development program in action, and he’s currently looking for business partners who will support the development of tomorrow’s leaders today. To learn more about Veterans Memorial Elementary’s Leader in Me initiative and how you can get involved, go to the school website at www.collierschools.com/vme or just call the school at 377-8800.

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Joe Landon is the executive director of the Communications Services department for the Collier County School District.

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