St. Stephen Elementary celebrates ‘Leadership Day’
April 18 marked the second annual “Leadership Day” at St. Stephen Elementary School.
It is the second year the school has hosted educators from across the state and region to show them how the “Leader In Me” initiative works.
The leadership program is based on teaching staff and students how to be leaders of self by applying Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
SSE Principal Dr. Elaine Norton said the leadership initiative has transformed the school by reducing discipline problems, helping students gain confidence and improving grades.
The 46 educators visiting last week – including several from North Carolina and Florida – observed classrooms and watched students from every grade perform in the multi-purpose room. SSE is the only county school using the program, although Boulder Bluff Elementary Principal Andrea Salters and Marrington Elementary Principal Barbara Webber were present.
All 65 staff members and 450 students wore matching T-shirts that read, “Wild About the 7 Habits,” with images of giraffes, elephants and other animals on them.
“Now they’re thinking a whole lot more,” assistant principal James Carraway told guests. “I’m not in my office all the time because of discipline. They become more conscious of what they do.”
Norton said the school went from three children with all A’s to 33 children with all A’s in third, fourth and fifth grades after teaching Covey’s habits.
“You know you have instilled something in them they can take for the rest of their life,” Carraway said.
“A lot of things we do in elementary school only work in elementary school,” Norton said. “The ‘7 Habits’ are something that will benefit them for life.
“It’s not good for any one principal by themselves. It’s only going to work if you have full staff participation …
“Self-esteem is just excellent. Students who never would get up in front of a crowd just seem to now have the confidence.”
Students presented data notebooks outlining goals they have set for themselves and how they will accomplish those goals.
“The word that came to mind most was ‘phenomenal,’” Norton said of Thursday’s experience.
She met with her staff at the end of the day. “I told my staff ‘phenomenal, phenomenal, phenomenal.’ Several guests said they would go back to their schools and make little St. Stephen Elementarys at their schools. It was awesome. I think everyone walked away happy and learned what we’re doing with the program.”
“Today was simply incredible,” Ridgleand Elementary Principal Robert Candillo told Norton. “I still can't put together the proper words. Thank you!”
A guest panel of seven parents spoke of how the 7 Habits have changed their children. On Monday a similar program was set to be shown to parents and the community.
Tamara Kelly said her son has autism and learns by repetition.
“The 7 Habits are perfect for that,” she said. “He needs repetition. He knows he’s different but he is comfortable being a leader of himself.”
BCSD Superintendent Rodney Thompson was also present for part of the day.
“We’re grateful for the support that Dr. Thompson has given us,” Norton said. “And my supervisor Susan Gehlmann has been very supportive and always attends all of the functions.”
The 7 Habits are:
• Begin with the end in mind
- Put first things first
- Think win-win
- Seek first to understand then to be understood
- Sharpen the saw