Posted: Monday, April 25, 2016
Chandler Creek Elementary Administrative Assistant Leah Stafford has been selected to participate in the New and Aspiring School Leaders Program at Harvard University in November. The program prepares new school leaders for leadership challenges and helps them clarify their vision of an effective school and their role in leading it.
Mrs. Stafford is thrilled to be part of the program. “I’m excited about making connections with other schools that are in the same mindset as ours,” she said. “I want to gather ideas and learn from them. Harvard is one of the top ten graduate programs for education, so I am looking forward to learning about research-based practices that are working in other schools.”
Stafford, in her second year as an administrator at Chandler Creek Elementary, is a former Top Ten Teacher of the Year for Greenville County Schools. As administrative assistant, she is responsible for handling day-to-day issues such as discipline and late buses. But she says any activity that gets her back into the classroom is her favorite part of each day.
One of her greatest contributions to Chandler Creek is the development of an after-school Engineering Club for second through fifth graders. “We received a grant from the Greater Greer Education Foundation to buy curriculum from Engineering is Elementary, a program developed by the Museum of Science in Boston,” she explained. “I helped pilot the program when I taught in Colorado, so I already had an understanding of how it works.”
The Engineering Club allowed students to develop math and science skills through hands-on projects like building a windmill, designing a bridge, and figuring out how to clean up an oil spill.
“I feel that engineering is the best of all worlds. It combines science standards into a real-world application. It gives students the opportunity to experiment, to fail, and to learn from their failures,” said Stafford. “Failure is a big part of engineering curriculum. Take whatever you learned and improve upon it. It’s a great lesson for kids to learn.”
Stafford is also proud of the school’s Book Club for fifth graders, which she implemented this year. The students are currently reading Wonder by RJ Palacio, a story about a middle school boy who is constantly bullied because he has a facial deformity. “They are learning about compassion and caring and standing up for something they believe in,” she said.