Creating young leaders

Myers Elementary School’s ambitious new projects

Elementary students in Muncy are learning how to be successful leaders through a recent initiative spanning all grades at Ward L. Myers School.

The push is schoolwide — beginning in kindergarten and following through to the sixth grade.

The various projects all contribute to a holistic approach at bettering students. And it’s been a fulfilling experience, teachers said.

“We think it’s important to develop these leadership skills in our youngest learners,” Principal Frank Jankowski said.

Beginning the process as early as kindergarten, first and second grades, teacher Kelly Gruber has been working to instill habits that have been proven to propel success.

“We’ve created a program based off the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ “ Gruber said. “It empowers the kids. It teaches them that everyone is capable of learning … everyone is capable of doing great things and that everyone is a leader.”

The students use the principles in the book and help each other in class. They’ve even created a mission statement.

“They helped write it and they read it every day,” Gruber said. “It just really pushes critical thinking, goal setting and listening and speaking skills.”

Gruber began implementing the principles in class last year. She said she continues to include it in the everyday activities more and more.

Jean Daniels is the school’s counselor and the student council advisor.

Within that council are representatives from grades three through six.

Each one of those students is attached as a “buddy” to a younger class to teach classroom lessons on the growth mindset — the philosophy that the human brain can be trained to achieve, Daniels said.

“In those classes, they are teaching that students can always do better,” she said. “They can always improve and that there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes.”

The classes began in October and will continue once each month.

Daniels said feedback on both ends is coming back as very positive.

“The students enjoy talking to the younger children and the younger students are excited to see their buddy coming into the classroom,” Daniels said.

Working with the older kids of the school, Heather Diehl guided her students while they organized a Veterans’ Day assembly.

Diehl teaches the fifth and sixth grades. She’s also the gifted teacher.

Through the students’ work and research, the school honored 78 veterans — its highest number yet.

“We had the students research the history and specifics of each branch of the military,” Diehl said. “They then presented them at the assembly.”

The students also organized poem readings, a song and a video. Jankowski said they were pivotal in putting the assembly on.

Diehl is currently working with the student council and other students in the building to form a partnership with the skilled nursing unit at UPMC Susquehanna Muncy Valley Hospital to help with its residents during the holiday season.

“With everything going on throughout our society and the direction education is taking, the underlying theme with everything we have been working on and what we’re trying to emphasize is developing each student in a holistic manner,” Jankowski said. “We’re approaching that by realizing there’s not just one way to develop leaders.”

The whole focus is to instill the ideas of success and leadership from the start and put those ideas into practice throughout their time at the school. “That’s what we’re trying to accomplish here,” Jankowski explained.