The best leaders lead by example. At Pennypacker Elementary School, students develop and hone their leadership skills by contributing their time and voice to a program called Leader of the Pack (LOTP). In turn, students learn to act responsibly through the daily practice of decision-making while being a role model among their peers.
“LOTP is a mentoring program geared toward a select group of fourth and fifth graders,” said principal Michelle Lutz. “These are the students that pretty much guide the other students. These students really set the example for the school as well as the other students. Leadership teaches the students responsibility. I’m very proud of the leaders that the students have become.”
Established in the 2010-2011 school year by special education liaison and director of LOTP LaTwyne Wise, the mentoring program consist of 25 students who demonstrate leadership skills.
“The intention of the group is to equip the students, who were admitted into the group by way of a competitive nomination-application-interview process, with skills to enhance their present abilities and increase their chances [of] having a successful academic career and adult life,” Wise said.
The students receive direct instruction on respect, team building, responsibility, service learning and goal setting. The students serve as a model for their classmates who are afforded an opportunity to join the group the following year.
“The younger that you teach the students how to be leaders and to be comfortable within their skin, the more they can build on that when they get older,” she added. “They will not only be better leaders, but better students during their academic career. I want the students to take control of their life.
For fifth-grader Taylor Bennett, being in the LOTP program has helped her become a leader among her peers.
“The program is really about being a leader by mentoring other students,” Bennett said. “The program really shows you how to be a role model and make better choices in life. The biggest lesson I learned in the program is that everything you do in life is a choice. You can make bad and good choices, but you also have to be willing to deal with the consequences and grow if you make bad choices.
“One of the hardest things for me in the program is having everyone in the school look to you for leadership and guidance,” she added. “With the help of Ms. Wise and other students I learned how to get through it. It’s all about succeeding in the classroom, but also having fun. In this program, I’m able to do both.”
Students in the LOTP program meets every Thursday after school. In addition to taking on leadership roles in the school, students also participate in fundraisers and take numerous field trips throughout the year. The students are evaluated on their work in the program on a bi-weekly basis.
“Being a part of a program like this has really been a great experience,” said fifth-grader Niya Curry. “We’re able to do fundraisers and take trips to various places. We are also able to make a difference in the school as well as in the community. We’re not only given the tools by Ms. Wise to be a great leader, but also person.”
For fifth-grader Bessie Theodore, LOTP is all about making better choices.
“I’ve been here since kindergarten, so my overall experience at Pennypacker has been good. I currently participate in LOTP,” Theodore said. “Since being in the program, I’ve learned so many skills, like responsibility, how to be a leader, discipline and accountability. The program is not just about teaching how to be a leader it is also teaching you how to make better choices in life.”
In addition to LOTP, Pennypacker also has intervention programs to enhance students’ reading, writing and arithmetic skills.
“In my computer class, I’m learning how to be a better reader and problem solver,” said third-grader Anthony Holt. “One of the games I’m currently playing on the computer is a math game. The game teaches you how to subtract and add. I love math and adding is one my favorite things to do.”
Students who need additional assistance in those areas are able to do so in the school’s computer lab throughout the day. Programs like Lexia, Reading Eggs, and First in Math are all computer based curriculum designed to boost kids’ grade levels.
“I have the students sorted by different classes,” said computer teacher Chris Curtis. “I have intervention classes and regular classroom classes. For instance, I can go to my computer and look up a third-grade class. I can see which kids are having certain problems in different areas. Once I click on their names, it will cater my lesson plan to their needs.
“This is a computerized world today; it’s not the world that I grew up in where everything was on paper,” he added. “Kids, today, are visual learners. My goal as a teacher is to have my students be life-long learners and to love education and reading. I want them to be prepared for the next level.”
Third-grader Amirah Melhado’s favorite program for math is First in Math.
“I’m learning so much in my computer class,” Melhado said. “We do math on the computer, we read and practice our skills. I love doing First in Math; it’s a game where you do addition and subtraction. You also have to do a test in the program. It’s a lot of fun; I really enjoy doing it.”