Apple, pile of books and backpack

The Wildflower Accelerated Academy has officially been named a Leader in Me school, a nationwide program that focuses on leadership, culture and academics. 

The program takes on a holistic approach to education as opposed to solely focusing on academic measures. 

“It’s really about shifting students to see that everyone has potential and everyone has greatness and that by taking on leadership roles and looking at situations differently that they are able to become leaders. We empower them to just really learn and take ownership of it,” said Katelyn Orloski, academy assistant principal.  

Adopting the program is a three-year process, Orloski said. In their first year, students learn about culture.  

“Next year we move into the academics piece,” she said. “It’s really a multiyear journey of embracing this framework and way of thinking and acting and doing things.”

When the academy planned to introduce the program last year, it had a clear vision of what it would look like in its classrooms. Enter the pandemic, and teachers and faculty had to create a new game plan to transition into virtual learning. 

“We’ve still been able to focus on the same goals. We’ve just reimagined the setting and how we deliver it to the students, but we’re excited that when students were here in person they were really taking on those leadership roles, and those even continued in the virtual setting,” Orloski said.

First-grade teacher Megan Garr said she can already see positive changes in her students since the start of the Leader in Me program. 

One way Garr has implemented the program into her curriculum is creating leadership roles for each of her students.

“This has been most important for some of my more timid children and some of my friends that are low readers,” Garr said. “We’re working toward every student having a leadership role and some of those tasks that I would normally do, whether it be taking attendance or making announcements.”

In her 13 years of being a teacher, Garr said the academy is one of the best shows that has employed her. With the addition of the Leader in Me program, Garr said her students and the entire school will only become stronger. 

“We already have that family and that strong community feel, but I think it’s going to take it from that love and that strong sense of community we have, and also really empower staff and students to strive to become experts at the seven habits and the leader in me,” she said.  

Beyond the program’s academic benefits, Garr said she is excited to see the life skills to which the children will be introduced. 

“A lot of the foundational skills of this program are those lifelong skills that employers look for in the career field — if you can communicate well, can you problem solve with each other, good eye contact when you speak,” Garr said. 

The program addresses students’ social, emotional and communication skills, Garr said, with a focus on helping the child develop as a whole person. 

“I think that idea of growing these little ones into not only fantastic leaders and kiddos whether they’re here on campus, but also it’s going to be great to see how this impacts them for the rest of their life,” Garr said.