Leader in Me was first developed by a principal and teachers who wanted to teach students life skills alongside academics. With this in mind, Principal Muriel Summers of A.B. Combs Elementary in Raleigh, N.C. turned her failing school into the #1 magnet school in America by implementing FranklinCovey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, along with several other educational practices, into a leadership model for her school.
FranklinCovey later codified Summer’s process so other schools could apply the same leadership model. In Edina, Creek Valley Elementary has become a Leader in Me school; to reinforce and celebrate the seven habits of happy kids and effective people in its classrooms. According to the Leader in Me website, the program is a framework that provides educators with effective practices and tools to teach leadership to every student, create a culture of student empowerment and align systems to drive results in academics.
“Within the space of education, it came from the outside in,” says Scott Anderson, a client partner for the state of Minnesota who works for FranklinCovey, the parent company of Leader in Me. Anderson says Creek Valley Elementary is one out of 5,000 Leader in Me schools in over 50 countries around the globe. He says, at its core, the whole school makes a transformation around leadership and introduces five paradigms for education: everyone can be a leader, everyone has genius, change starts with me, educators empower learning and develop the whole person – mind, body and spirit. “When you do this as a whole building, you not only include the teachers, but you include everyone on this together,” says Anderson. As a school slowly commits to this type of language, each school is assigned a coach to help hand-in-hand with the implementation.
Debra Lund works in communications for FranklinCovey and says, “If this is done with fidelity and in a certain way, then the culture grows and the leadership skills of educators and students grow; and if this happens, there are improved academics.” Anderson and Lund believe their role is to make the world a better place. They say if they could summarize what does the Leader in Me means for a school and parent, it’s hope – “we bring hope back into the system.”
Kari Dahlquist, principal of Creek Valley Elementary, school believes the Leader in Me program has helped positively shape the school. She says the program provides a common language used across the building. “Leader in Me provides an intentional focus on student leadership. We embed the habits into our monthly all-school assemblies and students write and perform skits about those habits.” As of last year, all licensed staff at Creek Valley Elementary participated in Leader in Me training.
When it comes down to it, Anderson says, “It’s just one school doing better by kids, families and staff to make the world a better place with more empathy, mutual respect, self-efficacy and hope.”