Erie to become first Leader in Me school in Macomb County

By: Jeremy Selweski | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published June 5, 2013

 Erie Elementary School in Clinton Township was recently awarded a $60,000 grant to become the first Macomb County school to implement the renowned The Leader in Me program.

Erie Elementary School in Clinton Township was recently awarded a $60,000 grant to become the first Macomb County school to implement the renowned The Leader in Me program.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Starting this fall, Erie Elementary School will be helping each and every one of its students become a leader.

Erie was recently awarded a $60,000 grant from the I Am a Leader Foundation to launch the nationally recognized The Leader in Me program for the 2013-14 school year. The grant money will provide training and materials for teachers and students that are essential to getting the program underway.

By implementing this program, Erie will become the first Leader in Me school in Macomb County. Only 37 schools in Michigan currently participate in The Leader in Me, but more than 1,100 schools worldwide use the program.

According to Dr. Jerry Evanski, principal at Erie, “This program really fits the bill for what kids need today. It develops lifelong habits to help them become competitive in the global marketplace. It’s a program that believes everything starts with character. You don’t just automatically become the kind of adult that you want to become — you have to consciously work at it every single day.”

The Leader in Me is based on late author, educator and businessman Stephen R. Covey’s 1989 book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” By integrating these habits directly into the curriculum and culture of schools, the program is known to produce higher academic achievement, fewer disciplinary problems, improved interpersonal skills and increased engagement among teachers and parents. The seven habits are: “Be Proactive,” “Begin with the End in Mind,” “Put First Things First,” “Think Win-Win,” “Seek First to Understand Then to Be Understood,” “Synergize” and “Sharpen the Saw.”

The charge to bring The Leader in Me to Erie was led by second-grade teacher Melissa Couck and music teacher Erica Latowski. They submitted the $60,000 grant application on behalf of the school and made sure that their colleagues were on board with the program.

Couck pointed out that about two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies currently utilize “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” and she believes that the method is equally appropriate for an elementary-school environment.

“The best part about this is that it’s an inside-out program,” she said. “Students are instilled with a message that’s all about supporting and empowering them to be leaders. With (The Leader in Me), you’re more confident in yourself and more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, which allows you to make improvements more easily and then move forward. To be able to do that with our kids — there’s no greater gift that we can give them.”

Added Latowski, “This is a leadership model that’s meant for every single student at your school, no matter what their individual abilities are or how good their grades might be. It’s a program that really allows everyone to shine so that every kid will be a leader in something.”

One thing that The Leader in Me will not do, however, is change any of the academic curriculum at Erie. All students will still receive a full diet of reading, writing, math, science, English and social studies. The only thing that will change is the way teachers present these lessons to their students.

“This will be the lens through which we will model all of our teaching from here on out,” Latowski said. “Our school curriculum will still be business as usual, but this program will provide an added layer to everything we do.”

Couck explained that the idea to bring The Leader in Me to Erie was hatched after some of its teachers had the opportunity to receive some Leader in Me training through the Macomb Intermediate School District. These sessions left an indelible impact on all those who participated.

“We all just loved it,” Couck said. “We saw such an amazing transformation in ourselves in just a few days’ time that it was incredible. After that experience, we just knew that this was a perfect fit for our school.”

While the $60,000 grant that Erie received was a welcome surprise, it’s certainly not the only reason the school decided to pursue The Leader in Me. As Evanski put it, “We had already laid out plans to bring in this program, but this grant will make it a whole lot easier for us to make it happen.”

This summer, all staff members at Erie — everyone from the principals and teachers to the secretaries and custodians — will take part in three days of Leader in Me training paid for by that grant money. The remainder of the funds will then be used to purchase workbooks and other materials for every classroom.

Latowski noted that as the first Leader in Me school in Macomb County, Erie could provide a model for other elementary schools to follow. She is excited about the prospect of reaching out to others who are interested in the program.

Evanski agreed. “I’m looking forward to being able to mentor some other schools and contribute to the greater good,” he said. “I feel like we’re all in 100 percent on this. Every one of us is going to be doing the same training; we’re all volunteering to give up some of our free time during the summer to do it. That’s really great to see because when everyone is on the same page, that’s when miracles happen.”

For information about The Leader in Me, visit or call (888) 7HABITS.