Students play an active role in learning and teaching at Hurricane Town Elementary in Putnam County.
"We teach leadership principles in everything we do all day long," said Debbie Spicer, the school's principal for 11 years.
Students set goals, track progress, participate in community service projects, acquire communication skills, and practice activities that will turn them into good citizens and sought-after employees, Spicer said.
Hurricane Town Elementary, a "Lighthouse School," is involved in a program geared to teach leadership to students. The Leader in Me is a leadership curriculum based on Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People."
Spicer first heard about the leadership program at a conference where she met Muriel Summers, principal of A. B. Combs Elementary in Raleigh, N.C. In 2006 it became the number one magnet school in the country.
"Muriel Summers was a speaker at a principals' institute I went to five years ago," Spicer said.
"In Putnam County we had had excellent test scores and were a school of excellence. I knew something was missing. I wanted to work on the school culture."
She wanted to instill in students ways to become employable and good citizens.
Three years ago, Spicer headed to North Carolina to visit Summers' school. She was greeted by students and noticed leadership skills they demonstrated throughout the day.
"I knew that was it," she said.
Her school got on board with The Leader in Me program. Students have learned to integrate leadership skills into every area of learning. They have taken responsibility to become proactive and to be in charge of their own schedules by putting "first things first." For example, when they go home from school homework is done before play.
"It's a way of life," Spicer said. "Parents have written letters about how this has changed family life."