Leader in Me program encourages problem-solving

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

With the help of the Leader in Me program, students at Eureka Springs Elementary School are learning all about what it means to work as a team.

Fourth-grade students Yaretsi, Kameron, Madeline and Anastasia gave the Citizen an exclusive tour of their school last week, highlighting the different parts of the program. The program allows students to step up and become independent, Yaretsi said, and each student has something special to work on, like putting the flag up in the morning or organizing the lost and found rack.

Kameron introduced the Kindness Board, where students are recognized for various acts of kindness throughout the year. The students are awarded a certificate, Kameron said, and their photo is placed on the board. He remembered when he was featured on the board, saying he helped fellow students with their homework.

“Me and my friend Corbin, we love math,” Kameron said. “We try to help people when they need it.”

Kameron moved on to the Mission Statement Board, a place where teachers and staff place uplifting mission statements for the students. His favorite, Kameron said, is from art teacher Shannon Haney.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive,” Kameron read, “and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”

For Yaretsi, the board is a way to spread hope.

“If someone is walking by and they need something to inspire them, they can just look at the board and find the quote that fits their needs and they stick with that quote as long as they need,” Yaretsi said. “It inspires them, and it can also inspire you.”

In the other hallway, Yaretsi pointed out the Kindness Board. That board allows students to write their own messages of hope for other students to take on difficult days, Yaretsi said. She said the students can even take one of the messages and give it to another student if that student is having a hard day. Anastasia remembered a note she left on the board, saying it has already been taken by another student.

“It said, ‘You are bright for multiple reasons, bright as in smart and bright as in a happy person,’ ” Anastasia said.

“My favorite is this one,” Yaretsi said. “It says, ‘You, yes you, are loved.’ ”

Madeline said the board helps students give back to others, even on their worst days.

“If they’re upset but no one was there to help out as much as they wished, they can come here and leave something so when someone else has a bad day, it wouldn’t repeat the day they had,” Madeline said. “It would just make them feel better.”

Another important component of the program, Madeline said, is the lost and found rack. Madeline said the lost and found used to be located in a large bucket in the cafeteria, saying it was difficult to find anything in that bucket.

“We decided to hang up the jackets, so it’s more organized,” Kameron said. “They can look at this and say, ‘Hey, that’s my jacket.’ When it was in the big bucket, it was much harder to find.”

“We organize it from the smallest jacket we could ever find to these heavy coats,” Yaretsi said.

It’s Anastasia’s job to organize the lost and found, and she said she loves it. Overall, Anastasia said, she enjoys how the Leader in Me program brings out the best in everyone.

“I like how it changed our school. People used to be arguing in class,” Anastasia said. “We’d have punishments, like if one person was rude then the whole class would have to do laps. Leader in Me changed that.”

Yaretsi agreed.

“I feel like it makes you a little more independent,” Yaretsi said. “Instead of going to a teacher and saying, ‘Oh he tattled,’ you can solve the problem yourself.”

“It’s really all about solving problems and making your life better,” Kameron said.

For Madeline, the program means everyone at the school is a lot happier.

“It helps you be a better person. It helps you find how to solve problems with somebody instead of arguing with them,” Madeline said. “You’re always smiling. You’re not arguing all the time.”

Teacher Mandy Elsey, who helps oversee the program, said she’s been astounded at the students’ progress.

“It’s an amazing transformation that’s happened,” Elsey said. “The kids are more independent. We’re seeing those relationships being built. They’re becoming better at problem-solving and finding those win-win situations.”

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