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'Leader in Me' program bearing fruit at St. Matthew's

KEMPSVILLE

Students at St. Matthew's Catholic School are quickly learning that leaders lie within each of them.

The private school, with 581 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, is a 2011 U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School.

Last year, they welcomed a new principal, Lou Goldberg. He, in turn, initiated a new program, The Leader in Me.

Goldberg, a retired Navy commander, is no stranger to St. Matthew's Catholic School. Both of his daughters attended it.

Goldberg said he has taken his share of classes, training and more, some during his 21 years in the service as an intelligence officer. He earned one of his master's degrees, in education, from Old Dominion University.

But it was The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, based on the work of best-selling author Stephen Covey, that had the most impact on Goldberg, both professionally and personally, when he took the five-day program in 1997.

"It was about talking and listening to people, character building, leadership and more," said Goldberg. "This one course stuck with me."

So, when Goldberg learned about The Leader in Me program for schools, he was thrilled.

Goldberg is also thrilled that The Leader in Me is not another thing for teachers to do during their day, but instead, it is interwoven into what they do daily.

Teachers wrote a mission statement for their classes that is posted outside their doors. They apply one or more habits to everything they talk about, and The Leader in Me Pledge is recited daily following prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Seven Habits are: Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Put First Things First, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood, Synergize, and Sharpen the Saw.

The idea is for the teachers, staff members, students and parents to incorporate the Seven Habits into their lives. Diamond Springs and Newtown elementary schools also implemented The Leader in Me program.

April Sanderson is on the Lighthouse Team, which is composed of parent volunteers at St. Matthew's. Her sons Todd, 13, and Scott, 7, both attend the school. She is delighted with the program.

"It's so great because it makes children think about the bigger picture," said Sanderson, noting she has already seen a change in her sons. "I wish I had something like this when I was a child. Just imagine how the world would be if we all followed the Seven Habits."

"It's about taking responsibility for ourselves and respect for other people," said Liz Allen, development director. "It's something that's needed, not addressed enough and lacking in our society today."

Goldberg said it's a long process that won't change everything overnight. He is interested in seeing how the younger students are five years from now.

But, last year alone, the conduct notices regarding minor to major discipline issues dropped 20 percent.

"It's giving them the tools to be successful," Goldberg said.

And that's a win-win - Habit No. 4 - for everybody involved.

Sandra J. Pennecke, Pennecke@cox.net

Posted to: Community News Virginia Beach Virginia Beach Community

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