For ten years, The Westside Leadership Magnet School has taught leadership to its students in what its leaders consider a unique fashion.
The mission of the school, at 104 Anchorage St. on the Marina Peninsula, is to develop leadership skills and academic excellence, but one of the things that sets Westside Leadership apart from other schools is that its own students are the ones teaching leadership to the entire student population, says Dr. Craig Singer, leadership teacher at Westside Leadership Magnet.
The school has 450 students in kindergarten through eighth grade and offers leadership classes — taught by Singer and Kelli Galles — to middle school (sixth through eighth grade) students, who then become “facilitators” and teach what they’ve learned in their leadership classes to every single Westside Leadership Magnet student.
It takes work, time and diligence for students to become a facilitator, and even be in the leadership class.
“It’s a privilege to be one of these leaders [facilitators],” said Singer. “We go through a screening. Not just anybody can do it; there has to be a desire.”
But anyone is eligible, said Elana Mabashov Bader, school coordinator.
“Students are trained on leadership skills, like how to run a meeting efficiently, character building, self esteem,” she said of the leadership class. “Then they go and teach what they were just taught.”
The middle school students enrolled in the leadership classes teach what they’ve learned about leadership to every student at the school on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for half an hour, “imparting that knowledge on their peers,” said Singer.
The “facilitator” students go to various classes in pairs of two or three, teaching kindergarten through eighth-graders about leadership. During this time, “the regular teachers basically take a back seat,” said Bader.
About one-third of middle school students enroll in the leadership class as their elective and become facilitators, but even those not enrolled in the course benefit and learn all about leadership, Bader said.
“The difference between a student who has art for their elective or leadership for their elective is that one is being taught how to teach the leadership program, and the other is receiving the program [through students enrolled in the leadership class],” said Singer.
Bader says she has seen students that take the leadership class make very positive changes.
“It’s incredible,” said Bader. “Once they have the opportunity to actually become a leader, I will see shy, insecure students’ self-esteem boost. It usually reflects in their grades as well, and the way they carry themselves in almost every aspect of their lives.”
The purpose of the leadership class is to “empower” students and train them for the future, said Singer.
“In a nutshell, what it does is help the students step out of their comfort zone,” said Singer. “It gives them the ability to grow. It gives them real life skills that they’re going to need in the future.
“Every student planning on going to college needs to be able to show leadership and community service. What we’re doing is teaching students leadership and giving back to the community.”
Singer believes that “no other school teaches leadership like this,” and Bader says, “It’s the only one of its kind in the United States.
“We’ve had international visitors, a group from Russia and Korea, to view our program and take ideas back with them to their communities for their home schools.”