Jean Woodside has noticed a difference in her fourth-graders at Bains Elementary School this school year.

“When the kids come in each morning, they all have a job, they own the room,” said Woodside. “It makes a huge difference. When they come into the room, they know it’s their responsibility and they take care of it. They’ve learned something that extends into life.”

Woodside credits the “Leader in Me” program, which was implemented for Bains Lower and Bains Elementary students earlier in the school year. Leader in Me doesn’t teach students what to think, it teaches them how to think, she said.

Based on the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the program is designed to equip students with the self-confidence and skills needed to thrive in life. It teaches the value of leadership, accountability, adaptability, initiative, cross-cultural skills, problem-solving, communication, creativity and teamwork based on the seven guiding principles outlined in the book and a follow-up, “The Leader in Me.”

“At this age, the kids learn they can positively influence others with their actions and to think about being proactive in every situation,” Woodside said. “Children can be leaders.”

West Feliciana Superintendent of Schools Hollis Milton credits Bains Lower School Librarian Linda Holmes and Family Service Center Supervisor Bridget Plauche with helping to implement the program.

“Linda told me about the program last spring and how it puts a positive imprint on children and after she went to a Leader in Me conference, she got me excited about it and the teachers and administrators,” said Milton. “Everything was wonderful, except the price.”

The program cost $65,000 to implement for training and materials and with the system’s budget so tight, he didn’t know where to turn.

“One day I was talking with Lane Grigsby (a Baton Rouge businessman) and he likes the fact we’re an innovative district, and I told him about the LIM program,” Milton said. “He asked ‘What’s stopping you?’ and I said the cost. He wrote a check to cover the entire amount. I can’t thank him enough.”

The staff of both schools, including administrators, teachers and workers, went through two days of training, and Milton said it was critical they bought into the program, which they did. It was implemented this year, and it has made a marked difference.

“It teaches every kid from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade how to be an overall well-rounded person,” Milton said. “They learn by doing. It builds good citizenship and everybody in the schools took to it immediately. You see it in the kids and the adults.”

Milton said there are currently 1,992 schools nationwide involved in the Leader in Me program. The goal is to become one of 103 Lighthouse schools, meaning the school is exemplified as a model for others to emulate.

“It’s a three-year process to become a Lighthouse district, but we’re moving faster,” said Milton.

Bains Principal Abby Cochran has embraced the program. Each morning, when she reads her announcements, she teaches one of the habits, then the teachers talk about it for the rest of the day. The school also held a Leader in Me family night in November with guest speaker Dr. Dana Andrus.

“We’re not trying to create CEOs,” Milton said, “We just want the children to live up to their potential. Once you plant the seed, this program helps them grow organically.”

Possible graphic:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Habit 6: Synergize

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw