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Forming Leaders: Student Leadership at Alta Heights Elementary School
Posted 11/30/22

Leadership takes many forms at the Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD). From our principals and teachers who set the foundation for student learning to our student government representatives who support important grade-level initiatives, the opportunities for cultivating a leadership mindset are endless. Join us as we explore these opportunities below and discover innovative leadership programs and experiences across NVUSD.

Student Leadership at Alta Heights Elementary School

Fourth and Fifth-Grade Teacher Leslie Gracia and Education Specialist Ashley Cox know leadership. As the new Student Leadership Advisors at Alta Heights Elementary, they have joined together to shape and refine the leadership programming available to students, setting clear expectations in the process. Student leaders are asked to lead by example through their behavior, academics, and actions. Specifically, to be safe, kind, respectful, and responsible, participate in class and complete their classwork and homework, and take an active role in projects and programs. Gracia and Cox support students in this work, sometimes through gentle reminders and other times through thoughtful discussions about the importance of effort and resilience when working through an academic challenge or implementing one of their projects. 

To date, student leaders have accomplished much. They have picked up trash on the playground, participated in spirit days, lead the whole school in yearly give-back projects, acted as conflict managers at primary recess, participated in school assemblies by providing backup for Principal Ward as well as performing skits, songs, and chants to teach skills to their peers, and acted as school ambassadors during parent tours. “The framework Ms. Gracia and Ms. Cox have put in place provides clarity for students,” shares Alta Heights Principal Ted Ward. “They know what is expected of them and live up to those expectations in impressive ways.” 

Gracia takes this notion a bit further suggesting that learning these important skills not only leads to successes while in school but will translate into successes later in life. One new addition to the leadership framework that supports the growth of these lifelong skills is the addition of Student Leadership Supervisors. Four Student Leadership Supervisors are selected by fourth and fifth-grade teachers each year after being identified as caring, empathetic, and responsible. These Supervisors work to support other student leaders. 

According to Gracia, “Our Supervisors check in with students on a daily basis and provide supportive feedback to their peers. For example, Supervisors make sure our flag volunteers are raising the flag each morning to complete our flag salute, jumping in to assist when needed and giving them a note of praise for work well done. In addition, these students have That-a-Gators to pass out when they are moving through the school to any of our 300+ students that they witness being safe, kind, respectful, and/or responsible.” 

Both Gracia and Cox are appreciative of their student leaders. Cox shares, “We have a really wonderful group of Gators, and watching them rise to the occasion and lead their peers is not only exciting and fulfilling as an educator but also gives me hope for the future. Gracia concludes, “They are motivated to be leaders, and desire to make the world a better place which gives me great hope for our future generation of citizens.” 

Congratulations to these amazing student leaders and the impactful educators who make these opportunities possible.


Want to see more leaders in action? Read our related story about Safety Patrols at Donaldson Way Elementary School.

Safety Patrols

Enthusiastic 5th-graders wearing bright orange and yellow vests line the entrance to Donaldson Way Elementary School. There, they greet parents and help younger students out of their cars as they arrive for school drop-off. This is part of the 5th-grade Safety Patrol Program and 5th-grader Sophia, “Loves it!” She shares, “We do a lot besides just helping with drop off and pick up. We deliver breakfast to classrooms, stay after school to make sure all students have gone home, help the Kindergartners stay in line, and remind students to stop running.” 

These students volunteer their time and talents but must be selected for this leadership position. Fellow 5th-grade student Aaron explains that to be a safety patrol students have to do more than just turn in a permission slip. They also have to write an essay about why they want to join the safety patrol program. He concludes, “It’s not easy.”

Donaldson Way Grandparent and leader in his own right, Mr. Allen Quisenberry started the 5th-grade Safety Patrol Program over 11 years ago. He worked closely with Principal Marilyn Abelon and the American Canyon Police Department to develop a traffic flow pattern that would work for families who drive their children to school. He then worked with the Donaldson Way Team to put a system in place so students could give back. The program has taken off. 

Now, every morning at 7:30 am, he meets with the Safety Patrol Team to discuss their duties. He coaches them on leadership, self-confidence, and volunteerism and sometimes even throws in a vocabulary lesson on words such as Attitude, Resilience, and Positivity. Mr. Quisenberry motivates his patrols each day and in turn, their cheerful smiles and thoughtful “have a nice day(s)” make each school day a little safer and happier for all.

“Rain or shine, we can count on our safety patrols showing up,” shares Principal Abelon. Every member of our school community plays a critical role in making sure our campus is welcoming and safe, and that leadership and learning are priorities at our school. They remind me about how important community is at Donaldson Way. ”