Barron Elementary School 5th Grade Team Leader Raises the Bar on Student Leadership, Citizenship
September 13, 2013
The phrase "We the People..." launched a discussion among fifth grade students in teacher Lilli Wisler's classroom this week, as she prepared them to develop classroom presentations in honor of "Celebrate Freedom Week" and "Constitution Day." The nationwide celebrations are September 16-20 and September 17, respectively.
Lilli is pictured with her fifth grade students.
"What do these three words mean to you?," she asked her students at Barron Elementary School. "And why do you think that the Constitution's framers chose these three words to begin the document's preamble?"
Thoughtfully arranging the students into groups, each with roles such as leader, song writer, teacher, artist and actor, Lilli oversaw their active discussions. "Be 'wild and crazy' (creative) in your thinking," she reminded them.
Lilli Wisler's own creativity and desire to model collaboration at Barron Elementary School fueled her passion to launch a Student Council club at Barron last year. "I was Student Council sponsor at my previous school, and I believe that Student Council is an organization that promotes good citizenship, teamwork and peer role modeling. It's been very rewarding to watch our students blossom through this organization," said Lilli.
Lilli prepared students to develop presentations based upon the opening of the U.S. Constitution's preamble, "We the People...", this week. Also, check out the district's "We the People..." video below (5.25 minutes), which celebrates the U.S. Constitution and was produced by the district communications office in collaboration with academic services department social studies coordinators Lisa Wellborn and Nicole Michener.
In what way do the words 'We the People...' resonate with you and your personal teaching philosophy?
My classroom is like a family the same way that our school is like a family. Each day, the students know that they are going to be in charge of helping each other learn in a community setting. I encourage them to interact with one another all day, emphasizing the leadership potential in each of them to build that sense of community.
How do you encourage student participation in your classroom?
My students are encouraged to talk a lot and to participate in class discussions. They give frequent presentations in front of their peers, which builds their confidence. They are encouraged to take risks, to have "wild and crazy ideas," as we like to call creative thinking. They know that I would rather they take chances and be wrong than to not participate in discussions. These are qualities that I instill in my students every day and that they will take with them throughout their lives.
You've added a Student Council club at Barron Elementary School. Why was that important to you?
I was Student Council sponsor at my previous school, so I missed that role when I came to Barron. Since the club started last year, our 20 Student Council members have received training from the Plano East Senior High School Student Congress on effective leadership. Our Barron council sponsored the largest holiday canned food drive in recent school history, raising 3,000 food items. They have presented at school assemblies, delivered morning announcements and are serving as role models throughout the school. They also help welcome new students.
Barron Student Council members hosted a success canned food drive during their first year as a club. To learn leadership skills, the Student Council participated in "StuCo-ville," hosted by student leaders at Plano East Senior High School.
Student Senate Treasurer Katelyn Taylor Barna said, "While I was mentoring for the student council at Barron, Ms. Wisler always encouraged her students in what they did. They need that confidence boost at a young age so they know they are doing the right thing as leaders and in being examples to their peers."
What connections do students make in your classroom that are important to you as a teacher?
I'm a story-teller at heart. I love to share stories with students about my life. Making connections to the real world gives new meaning to what students are learning. Cross-curricular connections are vital no matter what you are teaching, so I find a way to weave all subjects into every lesson so that students make real-world connections as they learn. It's very important for students to understand the "why" behind what they are learning. There are many second-language learners in my classroom and in our school. So real-world connections and putting them in charge of their learning through constant communication with one another helps encourage successful learning.
How do you gain trust with your students to be freely creative and to participate at high levels in your classroom?
Getting to know your students and leting them know that you care about each one of them is critical. That rapport is vital. In fact, I presented to new teachers this year ideas that have worked for me as a Barron teacher.
What is an example of how you encourage good citizenship at Barron?
Our Counselor Pam Maltsberger started a good citizenship program with the book series "Pete the Cat" by Eric Litwin. We have small stuffed animal Pete's that travel from student to student based on good attitude and good citizenship, and we have one that travels from staff member to staff member too. The books are all based on Pete having a great attitude about life even in the face of large obstacles.
What do you want students to take away as a learning tool from your classroom?
That I genuinely care about each one of my students. I want them to take risks and to think creatively. And, I want them to talk a lot to one another, to share their ideas and to feel that they are part of a successful community.
Quotes about Lilli
"Lilli goes out of her way to provide an all-inclusive learning and working environment in our school. She lives our district's theme to 'Be Bright' by exemplifying excellent teaching. She lives the 'Be Bold' theme by taking risks with instructional practices to get the most out of her students. The best to me, though, is how she lives the theme to 'Belong.' Lilli develops the sense of belonging in her students by getting to know them and letting them get to know her. She develops a sense of belonging in staff members by highlighting their strengths, embracing differences and openly showing her sincere positivity." ~Barron Principal Michele Loper
"Lilli is one of those outstanding teachers that students remember for a lifetime. She knows how to build strong relationships and character. Throughout the day, you will see her working with students on citizenship, current events, financial literacy and patriotic symbolism. Lilli gives students wings so they can soar to great heights." ~ Lisa Wellborn, district elementary social studies coordinator.