Leader in Me inspires greatness at Twin Oaks School

$35,000 Panda Express grant builds culture based on leadership on campus
By: Teresa O'Hanlon, Placer Herald Correspondent
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As Catherine Van Biber stopped her car at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Park Drive one rainy day last month, her daughter, Teagan, witnessed a motor scooter slide out of control, downing the driver. While other motorists jumped out to help, the first-grader calmly described the scene as ?people being proactive? and ?synergizing by working together.? ?She?s 7-years-old and has learned these social skills at school and applies them directly,? observed the Rocklin resident. ?You implement the seven habits and kids have a tool they can use for the rest of their lives.? While hearing elementary school children casually using phrases such as ?be proactive? and ?begin with the end in mind? might seem extraordinary, students at Twin Oaks Elementary speak with such purpose every day. It?s a leadership model Twin Oaks Principal Sarah James happened upon a few years ago. First-grade teacher Carol Strand dropped off the book, ?The Leader in Me? because she felt it exemplified a wonderful style of teaching. James read a few pages, attempted to go on with her day, but was drawn back to the book and read for an hour. ?It struck me that this is the model, the cultural glue we have all been looking for,? said James, who ordered the book for her leadership team. ?Districtwide we have always been focused on character building and bully proofing, but as I read the book I thought this is the one big thing under which all other things will fall.? The Leader in Me model is based on ?The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People? by author Stephen R. Covey. The habits are modeled for children in all lessons from math to physical education and encourages values, such as compromise, speaking purposefully, and taking responsibility. James was eager to implement The Leader in Me at Twin Oaks and applied for a grant through Panda Express, a supporter of schools that embrace the seven habits in every aspect of learning. ?Andrew Cherng, who is the owner and founder of Panda, awarded Twin Oaks a $35,000 grant because he believes introducing students to the seven habits early on is going to change how students live their lives in a very positive and productive way,? added James. ?We?re in year two and growing slowly so it really does permeate our school on a molecular level.? A partnership with Panda Corporation provided Twin Oaks teachers with the opportunity to observe successful Leader in Me schools and also offered quality tools to incorporate principals into lesson planning. The seven habits - Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Put First Things First, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, then be Understood, Synergize, and Sharpen the Saw ? have given all students, including Shawna Grinnell?s third-graders, the opportunity to practice leadership qualities every day. ?The Leader in Me also empowers kids, giving them a ?voice? in shaping their education,? noted Grinnell. ?Students help write the class mission statement, which gives students a purpose for learning: preparing for future grades and future careers. Students also learn to set goals for themselves, both academic and behavior.? Second-grader Carolina Garcia shared an example of Think Win-Win with her classmates. ?I once wanted to play outside, but my little sister wanted to play inside,? explained the 8-year old. ?I told her 'let?s play inside for 10 minutes and play outside for 10 minutes' and then we were both happy. Think Win-Win means to me that everyone wins?.Nobody is sad or angry.? On Wednesday, May 16 Twin Oaks students and staff will share their journey with the community during Leadership Day. They will offer presentations, classroom visits and interactive sessions for local businesses and schools interested in researching The Leader in Me. Twin Oaks is on the road to becoming a Leader in Me Lighthouse School and hopes to partner with local businesses to encourage service learning and community involvement. ?We really do not have any discipline issues here anymore and that?s the part that?s just mind boggling to me,? expressed James. ?It?s so calm. Our kids are learning these tools that businesses use to achieve success. We are teaching to students with a purpose and this is a process you can use anywhere.? ________ Know and Go What: Leadership Day When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday, May 16 Where: Twin Oaks Elementary School, 2835 Club Dr. Fee: $20 To register, visit