Members of the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club recently learned how the Bradley County school system has been working to instill leadership values in the lives of students.
Sheena Newman, the system’s supervisor of elementary education, spoke to the group on Thursday about the “Leaders for Life” program in local elementary schools.
The program uses events and resources like books penned by Newman that promote everything from goal-setting to teamwork.
“We teach them how to be leaders,” she said.
The program was introduced during the 2012-2013 school year. Newman designed the program after she had been unable to put existing leadership curriculum into local schools.
She said the idea of including character education in schools along with subjects like math and reading was very important to her.
She began looking for a curriculum for elementary school students, but she found only one set of curriculum available for students that young. The curriculum would have cost $56,000 per school, and Newman said she was told that would be an impossibility.
So, she wrote her own curriculum.
The nautical-themed classroom materials encourage local elementary school students to “board the S.S. Leader Ship” and follow a set of values dubbed the “principles for sailing.”
One principle, “I lend a hand on deck,” is meant to teach the value of helping others. Another, “I persevere through storms,” teaches the importance of persevering through difficult tasks. Others are “a good crew mate” by working well with others and living a healthy lifestyle to stay “ship shape.”
Newman said teachers also try to incorporate opportunities for students to practice those skills by giving them responsibilities in class or letting them serve as greeters or tour guides during special events.
“We’re allowing them the chance to actually become leaders,” Newman said.
She said character education like that remains important, because some children do not have good role models at home.
Newman recalled youngsters who attended school with her daughter. He was always getting in trouble for using curse words in class.
Newman’s daughter said the boy asked the teacher, “Did I say any bad words today?”
“He didn’t know the difference between the bad words and the good ones,” Newman said. “He was repeating what he heard.”
She said that, in some cases, it is up to the teachers to let students know what behavior is acceptable and what is not.
Newman said she believes the “Leaders for Life” curriculum helps teachers promote good habits and “raise up the next generation of leaders.”
With 10,400 students in the Bradley County school system, not including students in pre-K or adult programs, Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel said it is more important than ever to make sure students are learning how to be good leaders.
Angie Gill, the school system’s testing coordinator, shared the systems’ scores on the most recent state report.
Gill said Bradley County had earned the top scores in all categories measured on the Tennessee Department of Education’s “Report Card on Tennessee Schools” for the 2012-2013 school year. The system scored all 5’s — the highest numbers possible — in the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System figures included on the report card.
She said the school system was continuing to set new goals and look at ways to ensure students continue to get high test scores.
During the meeting, the Bradley Sunrise Rotarians also welcomed a new member, Joyce Vanderpool. She is the wife of Pete Vanderpool, who has been with the club about 16 years.
Joyce Vanderpool said she felt like she had already been a club member because of her husband’s involvement. She was excited to join because she felt like it gave her the opportunity to “be of the most service to the community.”
Club President Andy Anderson said he was “honored” to have her become an official member, and she had already shown her dedication to the club by helping out with events like the club’s annual fundraising galas.