Mukilteo Elementary Achieves Lighthouse Status
By Sarah Noble, Mar 29, 2012
Mukilteo Elementary—located in Mukilteo, Washington. One of Mukilteo’s historic landmarks, the Mukilteo Lighthouse, neighbors Mukilteo Elementary, which is quite fitting because the students, staff, and parents of this great school are bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase “beacon of light.”
For the past three years, the dedicated staff and 600 students at this K-5 public school have focused on their school mission statement: “Developing Leaders who S.O.A.R.” Principal Pat Cushing shares, “We are a Leader in Me School, incorporating the 7 Habits into everything we do. This serves as the foundation upon which our learning environment is built, and along with our academic teaching and learning, the 7 Habits arm our students with the 21st-century skills they will need to have in order to be successful in the world. Our school’s mission statement is the driving force behind everything we do. Our vision is to help each and every student recognize his or her leadership strengths and to build upon these strengths. We believe that this helps them SOAR in their lives, which means they S… seek success, O… overcome challenges, A… achieve goals, R… reach high. Not only do we have a school mission statement, but our classrooms have their own mission statements. Students review it frequently to assess whether or not they are on track with their mission. Are they keeping the end in mind? Most certainly.”
Highlights at Mukilteo:
- Lighthouse Team: In addition to developing a rolling three-year Implementation Plan, the Lighthouse Team created a rich database chronicling their journey with The Leader in Me that they refer to as “Our story so far.” This includes a collection of classroom activities, strategies, ideas, and methodologies to instruct, reinforce, and remind students about the leadership principles that have worked particularly well in their school.
- Leadership Environment: The walls, doorways, and halls of the school are message boards that communicate positive affirmations of student leadership, teacher confidence in student potential, and acknowledgement of the greatness inside each child at the school. A Lighthouse Poster highlighting every staff member’s unique strengths and talents is displayed in the main office.
- Integrated Curriculum and Instruction: The 7 Habits language is taught to all students, kindergarten through 5th grade, using direct teaching methods. The leadership principles are also thoroughly embedded in the curriculum and classroom procedures. A few examples:
- Students welcome newly enrolled classmates with 7 Habits mini-lessons and advice.
- Students say “good-bye” to withdrawing students by offering suggestions about how to carry the 7 Habits with them to their new school.
- Recess teachers use Habits Tickets to highlight leadership behaviors.
- Teachers write leadership learning targets to focus student learning.
- Leadership tools are used in lessons with students and in discussions with staff.
- Staff Collaboration: Para-educators, custodians, and parent representatives were trained in the 7 Habits along with the teachers, which enables them to use the “common language of leadership” when helping to monitor recess, the lunchroom, and in other interactions with students. The staff meets monthly to celebrate and polish routines, lessons, and practices that are used throughout the year to build student leadership.
- Student Leadership: The students have and use the tools they need to be authentic leaders in their classrooms and in their learning communities. Fun leadership-role opportunities have been created for students, such as “7 Habits Seekers,” who “notice” and express appreciation to peers using leadership skills during class. However, one student said it best: “Everybody works together and synergizes, even when no one’s around to give them praise for it. They just know it’s the right thing to do.”
- Parent and Community Engagement: Mukilteo has deeply engaged parents by utilizing content from www.TheLeaderInMe.org to create a “Leader in Me Parent University” and “Family 7 Habits Homework.” They have also established a S.O.A.R. Parent Advisory Team to strengthen the home/school 7 Habits connection. One parent advisory member commented that this effort helps her child to have "one continuous day, in which the same language that I am using at home to de-stress the daily homework and getting-ready-for-school routines is also the language being used in the classroom to remind my child to take care of her leadership notebook."
- Leadership Events: The staff and students at Mukilteo have challenged themselves to take their work in the realm of leadership and, as they say, “pay it forward.” So they invite the other schools and community at large to Leadership Days in which every child in the school has a role. One parent recently wrote a letter to the staff about what this meant to her child, stating, “He looks forward to going to school again and has seen so much success behaviorally, academically and socially in such a short period of time. I am also very proud that he is getting an opportunity to participate in Leadership Day—this has done wonders for his confidence and self-esteem. He comes home every day and lets me know the progress of the script and reminds me that he is going to have to stay late one day for a dress rehearsal. He is so proud of himself and should be.”
- Goal Tracking: Scoreboards and data walls are on display in the lunchroom, main office, and common hallways, and play an authentic role in monitoring progress toward school-wide goals around tardiness and other main focuses. Classrooms have data walls and earn letters to spell the motto “Leaders S.O.A.R” by using their leadership skills both inside and outside the classroom. When all of the letters in the motto have been earned, the class celebrates. Staff gathers data from each year’s leadership journey, studies the benefits, and makes changes as needed.
- Measurable Results: Mukilteo staff studies data from test scores, student surveys, and staff surveys used to measure progress and the impact of the leadership model over the past three years. Parents are surveyed about the impact the leadership curriculum is having on their child’s education and school and family life, and have reported a decrease in bullying and an increase in goal setting. One student summed it up by stating, “Being here for four years means I’ve seen the school develop over the years–I’ve seen less bullying and all of our school knows a way to say a good thing in one word–like we all speak the same “language.” Mukilteo was awarded the 2009 Great Schools Award for being among the top 5 percent of Washington elementary schools that showed improvement in student achievement. They were named a School of Distinction in 2010 and 2011 as one of the 5 percent highest- improving schools in the state of Washington increased reading and math achievement.
One teacher shared that the following quote from John C. Maxwell is really meaningful to her students, and we also think it is a great way of describing the impact the entire school is having:
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
Please join us in congratulating Mukilteo Elementary on reaching the Lighthouse milestone. Thank you for continuing to “show the way”!
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