Creekside Elementary earns prestigious honor

June 10, 2014

By Neil Pierson

Ines Kaminski’s family moved from Germany to the United States three years ago, and she had very few English skills when she arrived at Creekside Elementary School.

Thanks to the school’s English Language Learners program and its Leader in Me system, Kaminski is not only surviving in her new environment, she’s thriving. The fifth-grader performed an excerpt of a French opera during the school’s third annual Leadership Day on May 28.

Creekside Elementary School students and staff gather around their new banner for becoming a Leader in Me Lighthouse School. By Neil Pierson

Creekside Elementary School students and staff gather around their new banner for becoming a Leader in Me Lighthouse School.
By Neil Pierson

“I am now a fluent English speaker, reader and writer,” Kaminski told an audience of 80 visitors representing 13 school districts, who were in attendance to learn more about the Leader in Me approach Creekside has been using since it opened in 2010.

Leader in Me is an educational model that schools around the country have been using since 1999. It was developed by FranklinCovey, an organization that specializes in performance improvement for businesses and schools.

Stephen R. Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” has spawned the Seven Habits of Happy Kids, an integral part of the Leader in Me system that Creekside teachers and students use daily.

This year’s Leadership Day was extra special for the school as it became a Leader in Me Lighthouse School. Over the past three years, Creekside has implemented the program with guides and online-based education for teachers, as well as activities for students.

Becoming a model school for the program is uncommon. Of the roughly 1,600 schools worldwide using Leader in Me, only 92 have achieved Lighthouse status, and Creekside is only the second school in Washington to do it, joining Mukilteo Elementary School near Everett.

“I’ve been here numerous times to get acquainted with the wonderful things this school is doing,” said Mike Forsyth, regional director for FranklinCovey. “What they have accomplished in the recent couple years … is quite amazing.”

The school received a Lighthouse designation banner that it plans to hang prominently. And because the school achieved the designation within three years, its Leader in Me materials will continue to be funded through a grant from the Panda Restaurant Group, said Judy Bowlby, Creekside’s dean of students.

The Seven Habits of Happy Kids ask students to:

  • be proactive;
  • plan out and visualize their actions;
  • set priorities and follow them;
  • seek solutions that help themselves and others;
  • actively listen before speaking;
  • synergize to work effectively in teams; and
  • “sharpen the saw” with relaxing and rejuvenating activities.

Student leaders ushered visitors around the building during Leadership Day activities. Several classrooms had prepared elaborate lessons and demonstrations highlighting the seven habits’ influence.

In Linda Wehrman’s fourth-grade classroom, students created a living wax museum of sorts. As part of a lesson about Washington state history, they selected prominent figures from the past and present, and then researched their life and accomplishments.

The figures weren’t necessarily born in Washington, but did something to positively influence the state. They included explorers George Vancouver, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark; Native American leaders Chief Joseph and Sacajawea; and athletes Hope Solo, Apolo Ohno and Russell Wilson.

Visitors to Wehrman’s classroom circled the room as students — some in costumes — recited the history of their chosen figures.

Melinda Toney’s second-graders focused on synergizing in their lesson. They divided into three-person teams and pored through a pile of books to look for characteristics of the ocean and sea creatures. Because they were sharing one pencil and one sheet of paper, they had to work together to accomplish the task.

Creekside students have formed numerous extracurricular clubs in recent years as part of the Leader in Me process.

One of them is the Lighthouse Team, which gave a PowerPoint presentation about the seven habits to Leadership Day guests. The team of nine, selected from about three dozen candidates, meets after school on a regular basis to implement leadership skills throughout the 650-plus student body.

Second-grader Ryan Maloney started a recycling club that helped spruce up the playground and other areas. He recruited several students during morning announcements, and even got Creekside’s custodian to donate tools and cleaning supplies.

“I hope my club continues for years and years,” Maloney told the audience. “I am very proud of all the people who helped make Creekside a clean school.”

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