“Welcome to Preschool,” a small child stuttered, looking up at Eddie Diaz, Principal at St. Patrick’s Catholic School.
It was cute and unexpected, Diaz recalled of the introduction.
Diaz was touring a “Leader In Me” school in Waukee when he was greeted by children of many ages. Instead of following around administrative members, his tour was led by third and fourth graders.
The notion, while small, is one Diaz hopes to bring into the classrooms of St. Patrick’s, later spilling into the Perry Community School District as students venture off.
“Everyone is going to be a leader,” Lindsey Brelsford, Parent said. “The Leader In Me program builds confidence so that students lead by example.”
According to the Leader In Me website, the program offers an overall transformation of the school district. The program is developed through a system of training with both students and staff members. The program prides itself on seven steps which are typically taught at the districts involved.
Before it became a program, Leader In Me was a book written by authors Stephen R. Covey, Sean Covey, Muriel Summers and David K. Hatch. Diaz stumbled upon the book after recognizing an author.
The book sits positioned on Diaz’ desk for inspiration.
“Leader In Me” works to morph students; allowing them to apply for assigned roles and wear those titles throughout the duration of the year. In order to gain a position in the school, an application process is conducted, giving students an early glimpse of the common interview process.
The ending goal is to assign roles to students at a young age, which allows maturity to kick start earlier in life and cause an overall maturity shift.
“It meshes with what I believe and what I try to instill in my kids,” Diaz said.
Diaz explains a period in his life where he was faced with growth: entering college, joining the military, and then becoming married.
“It took me until my mid 20’s to figure out,” Diaz said. “I wish I could help young people start learning earlier on.”
Diaz teaches a leadership class to middle schoolers and tries to explain scenarios in which things don’t go completely their way.
“I tried to get across that there’s going to be situations where you’re going to have to give up a little bit and the other side is going to have to give a bit,” Diaz said.
This program would encourage the intellectual growth that ties in with responsibility.
“If we can prove to people that it’s a worthwhile program, we’ll become a model for some schools,” Diaz said.
Megan Peppard, Fifth Grade Teacher at St. Patrick’s, previously taught at a “Leader In Me” school. Peppard has changed pieces of the previous time-length, allowing 2-3 week rotations for responsibilities in her classrooms.
“You really have to see it to believe it,” Peppard said. “It makes such an impact on kids.”
Students can be in charge of leading the morning prayer, lead the morning schedule – work in the classroom economy store.
Peppard doesn’t ask for applications for all “Leader In Me” inspired tasks.
Goals are set by students, reflected throughout their time in the classroom, and are later shown to parents during conferences.
The goal-setting opportunity parents to be in the know, Peppard commented.
Peppard believes bringing “Leader In Me” to St. Patrick’s Catholic School would benefit the students as whole.
“We have a small school, but I think they have such big hearts and it would be great for them to experience it,” Peppard said.
Diaz hopes to begin working towards the program in a year or two.
However, cost plays a large role in welcoming the program into St. Patrick’s School.
“Year One, it’s going to be $23,000,” Diaz said.
Cost includes visits from those who work in the program, along with intensive training from the staff.
Both Peppard and Diaz believe the “Leader In Me” program would be an overall cultural shift for school and community.
“Often times at their age, they only see stuff from their perspective,” Diaz said.
“I’m proud of Eddie for stepping outside of the box and looking for different things to incorporate in the school,” Brelsford said. “I want to give my kid every opportunity we can.”