Throughout this past year, teachers have been tasked with conducting hybrid or fully remote learning while guiding students through a global pandemic and nationwide social injustices. Amid such challenges, teachers have developed unique ways to stay resilient, while also driving engagement for students.
One program in particular, The Lead4Change Student Leadership Program, provides free leadership curriculum along with opportunities for students to pilot service-learning projects through collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving and reflection. Teachers are using tools like this program to encourage students in making an impact in their local communities.
Treena Edwards, a teacher at Lithia Springs High School in Lithia Springs, Ga., explained how Lead4Change allowed her to gain a greater connection with her students.
“When I got back to school and discovered there were some students who were homeless, without food and clothes, and hurting emotionally, it opened my eyes that I needed to do what I could to make a difference,” says Edwards. “Our high school is a Title I school where a large majority of the student population is on free or reduced lunch. We have a food bank located in the school to help those students. Ever since the pandemic began, it’s been low on supplies.”
To support their community, Edwards’ students created a food drive to increase donations to local food banks.
At Grassfield High School in Chesapeake, Va., teacher David Thaw explained the whirlwind of teaching during the pandemic and how he ultimately rose to the challenge and learned from his students. “Most of us felt like we were jumping out of a plane and hoped our parachute would work when pulled,” says Thaw. “But what happened was amazing. As much grace I showed my students, they showed me an equal amount of grace and more.”
Among the many instructional obstacles of the past year, Education Week found that the two most prominent challenges for educators during the pandemic are motivating students (77%) and meeting the needs of diverse learners (58%).
Teacher Holly Hartman of Eastern Lebanon County High School in East Lebanon, Pa., was able to reignite her passion for teaching. “Developing connections virtually is so difficult, but Lead4Change gave me and my students a reason to be in class,” says Hartman. “It brought purpose to the work my students were doing, and they liked knowing they could still make a difference in their community, despite the challenges the pandemic posed.”
This program has allowed educators to reinforce students’ immense potential to make a difference on important issues facing their communities.
“We are inundated with research reports advising Gen Z students are clueless about societal concerns,” explains Kenia Brown, a teacher at Plantation Middle School in Plantation, Fla. “I found just the opposite. Students were very aware of current events and civic mindedness and thanks to Lead4Change, I actually feel much better about the direction of society.”
Brown’s students formed the “Motivational Mondays” team, which promoted positive interpersonal communication within their community by spreading words of kindness on Mondays. The students’ efforts were awarded by Lead4Change as one of the grand prize-winning teams of the Lead4Change Challenge, earning a $10,000 grant for the nonprofit of their choice. However, the students’ impact on the local community and leadership skills acquired were rewards in of themselves.
For more information about the Lead4Change Student Leadership Program, visit lead4change.org.
During one of the most challenging years in recent history, teachers and students are remaining resilient and driving positive change by being leaders in community service.