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Learning to Lead
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Welcome to Learning to Lead!

Since 2013, our Committee has been inspired to spread the pedagogy of leadership development. Our mission is simple; help AIMS schools and educators understand that leadership is discipline that can be taught and learned while showing examples of best practices from work with students. We invite you to join our Learning to Lead community to hear our stories in this newsletter and write your own at our fourth annual Learning to Lead Workshop, to be held March 30th, at Gilman School in Baltimore.


Opening Note:
Building Empathy in Young Leaders


Jay Parker
Director of Student Life

Calvert School



In independent schools we are tasked with molding young leaders who are motivated to be their best selves. But as the void between haves and have-nots in our world grows daily, we must consider that our mission as schools evolve. Students look beyond our walls and see a nation deeply contemplating social justice, a presidential race that contradicts many ethics of moral leadership, and cultures around the globe where children go without basic necessities of life. Faced with this reality, our students are entering a world striving for selfless leaders who are catalysts for change. Consequently, our calling is no longer to simply foster leadership, but to cultivate compassionate young people who are celebrated not just for what they accomplish, but more for the people they impact.

In Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, Dr. Michele Borba argues that empathy is a key cultural competency needed in the 21st century. Many of our students struggle from what Dr. Borba entitles Selfie Syndrome, a “self-absorption epidemic” that undermines their success. She contends that students must develop, practice, and live empathy to be their best selves. So we must ask ourselves; is the teaching of empathy - much like leadership itself - just as important as traditional academic disciplines?


While there is no paint-by-numbers secret to teaching leadership, at its core it is about helping our students find their voice and shape the future. Leadership development is central to our mission in independent schools, and together we have a duty to contemplate how to best build empathy, resilience, and  confidence in tomorrow’s leaders.


AIMS Leadership – Garrison Forest Captains’ Council

 Traci Davis
Athletic Director
Garrison Forest School



During last spring’s AIMS Learning to Lead workshop, I thought a lot about the leadership lessons I didn’t learn as a team captain in high school.  I was passionate about basketball, lacrosse and field hockey and gave my all, every game. Back then, I thought that was enough to show my teammates that I was a leader. While they never doubted that I was there for them on the field, I could have been doing much more to lead on the sidelines, traveling to games and at practice.  


As athletic director at Garrison Forest School and as varsity field hockey coach for the past 15 years, it thrills me to see our student-athletes equally passionate about their sport. The young women who are elected by their peers for team captain—Garrison Forest is an all-girls’ school—are natural athletes but often leading does not come as easily. And while much has changed about girls and high school athletics since I played in the 1970s, how we are training team captains to lead was no different than it had been for me.

Inspired by the AIMS workshop, I launched the Garrison Forest Captains’ Council, an intentional team captain leadership programs, this past fall. I researched programs nationwide, scoured the Web and read many books, including Jeff Janssen’s The Team Captain’s Leadership Manual. Using my research and the guidelines shared at the AIMS workshop, I developed three goals for the captains: “Challenge—Grow—Serve.” Focused on these tenets, I wrote a manual to share with the 14 Garrison Forest team captains elected to fall sports. For the pilot year, I am focusing on varsity captains, adding members to the Council as we move into different sports seasons. Once a team captain is a member, she does not “roll off” post-season. Next year, my plans are to expand to junior varsity and Middle School team captains.

Our first Captains’ Council meeting examined ten questions, including How do I get my teammates to respect and listen to me and How do I step up and be a vocal leader when I am more comfortable leading by example?  The captains problem-solved, listened, gave advice and shared some tough issues in a positive, safe space. Through honest conversation, they understood that they all have the capacity to lead and can do so in different ways.

I did have another agenda. At Garrison Forest, we have never clearly defined expectations for our team captains. It was important that the captains help to set the parameters for their leadership role, and at our first meeting, we collaboratively developed those responsibilities.

It was in the days following the meeting, though, that I realized how powerful that time together was—and the potential it has. Captains have shared with me how helpful it had been to talk through issues and how they have begun to examine their own leadership strengths and challenges. They continue to reach out to others for support and are finding their captain’s “voice.” I am excited to see what happens as we expand our ranks and add new perspectives and ideas.  Most of all, I can’t wait to see how these young women lead on and off the field or court, as we work to understand that leadership is trial and error, flexibility and intuition and not one-size-fits-all.


Student Leadership Day at Notre Dame Preparatory School

                                                        Aimee Sann

Math Teacher,
Speech & Debate Coach
Notre Dame Preparatory School

Traditionally student leaders are those students who have elected leadership positions in our clubs, teams, student government, and service associations. At NDP, we also offer opportunities for leadership through a program called WIN, which pairs students with professionals in our community. This provides students with leadership experience in a field of study, specifically in sciences and businesses

At NDP, we want to open the door to leadership opportunities even wider.  In fact, we want to open that door as wide as possible and invite all of our students to explore leadership. One way we do this is with a biennial Student Leadership Day. Launched in 2010, NDP developed a half-day program, planned by teachers and implemented by students, that would instruct and inspire leadership for all students.  This year, we will be having our fourth Student Leadership Day. While we may be changing some of our activities, here are a few of the activities from previous years for grades 9-12:

*Alumnae keynote speaker—The alumnae that have returned to speak to our students deliver inspirational messages.  For example, alumna Funa Maduka, class of 2000, spoke in 2012.  Funa, who directed the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Johannesburg, South Africa, spoke of her experiences as a student at NDP and the inspirational journey of her life’s work and service to others.

*Alumnae Panels—Juniors and seniors attended 30-minute-long question and answer sessions with professionals. Freshmen and sophomores participated in similar panels, but with alumnae that were currently in college.

*Workshops—Students rotated through 30 minute workshops which addressed different aspects of leadership, including “Engineering Challenge,” “Emotional Intelligence,” “What Color Leader Are You?” and “Body Language.” In addition, the Speech and Debate team hosted a workshop in which they shared their experiences and what they had learned about the impact of voice, facial expression, eye contact, and gestures on speaking to a group.

Why do we teach leadership? As stated in our mission statement, “Infused with the spirit of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and rooted in the teachings of the Catholic Church, the NDP community strives to answer God’s call “…to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8). Our aim in making leadership opportunities and education available to all of our students is to graduate young women who transform the world.


From Seat to Stage: Life in the Leadership Institute at Maryvale


Mary Ellen Fise

Director, Maryvale Leadership Institute

Maryvale Preparatory School

As a sixth grade student at Maryvale, Gabby Halaby ’17 always wanted to be on the stage addressing the entire school community, but never thought it was possible. Now, as a confident 17-year-old Student Government officer, she speaks with poise and ease to the students, faculty and guests at Maryvale every week, thanks to the lessons she learned under the school’s Leadership Institute.

Maryvale became the first all girls’ school in the area to launch a Leadership Institute when it debuted the signature program in 2014. A brainchild of the President’s Advisory Council, the Leadership Institute at Maryvale provides girls with the academic training, real life examples and immense opportunity to develop exemplary leadership skills that will catapult them ahead in college, career and life.

Now in its third year, this innovative program provides every student with a variety of leadership training during each academic year. Through a Middle School course at every grade level, Upper School electives, regular lessons in Advisory, renowned guest speakers, field trips to prominent companies such as
McCormick and Under Armour and all-school assemblies, the Institute offers leadership skill development at every phase of a Maryvale student’s journey.

These lessons come alive as each girl has the opportunity to test her leadership muscle through dozens of curricular and co-curricular offerings. Whether it is delivering an impactful eighth grade speech, running in a close Student Council race, founding a new club or serving on the Social Justice Coalition (SoJuCo), there are more than 100 opportunities for each student to learn, lead and succeed in the classroom, on the field, in the theater or throughout the community.

This testing ground even extends beyond Maryvale’s 100-plus-acre campus. Through the Leadership Institute, students participate in internships as well as summer programs at companies, universities and nonprofits. Another goal of this signature program is to continually connect young alumnae with other Maryvale graduates who are heading up companies, nonprofits, schools and volunteer organizations to encourage networking, mentorship and career advancement.  Maryvale alumnae also share their leadership experiences as guest speakers in the classroom and through annual Career Days.

The girl who once feared that she would never gain the confidence to command the stage is not only a member of Student Government as the public relations officer, but also a captain of the Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field teams and a leader for the Maryvale community.

“The Leadership Institute has been tremendous in helping me develop leadership styles and skills that complement me,” Halaby said. “Without this amazing program, I would have never been able to interact one-on-one with our community’s current leaders to learn more about their career development and leadership experiences. After college, I hope to own my own business in the athletic apparel industry.” Look out Nike and Under Armour!


Becoming a L.E.A.D.E.R.  - Student Leadership at Jemicy School

Rich Strong
Physical Education & Health
Jemicy School


The Jemicy School eighth grade students have begun a leadership experience within a newly implemented leadership curriculum introduced this fall that will continue throughout their final year of middle school. The overall goal of this year-long project is to challenge the students to think about the relationships that surround them and take action by demonstrating a positive influence on the people and community that the students represent.

The student journey is based a six-step process that features leadership principles that correlate to the acronym “L.E.A.D.E.R.”

*Step 1 is called the Launch: Each eighth grader is paired with a lower school “buddy.” The older student is encouraged to foster a working relationship by “building a middle-lower school bridge” in their own unique way with the younger student over the course of the school year. The eighth grade students have completed an art project, making a picture frame featuring a photo of themselves and their buddies, accompanied with a hand-written sentimental note.

*Step 2 is a process entitled Encourage the Heart: Small groups of three to four students are to co-teach a fourth and fifth grade PE class. Through exercise, the students are to teach physical skills, coordinate games, and encourage the younger students to do their best in athletic situations.

*Step 3 is an Assessment of Values: Students are to take a closer look at their own set of values. Once the students have a good grasp of what is important to them and can explain why they feel this way, the focus will spin in the direction of the school’s values. What does Jemicy School consider to be the important values within its community? Are there any similarities or differences when compared to the values of the student? After exploring both personal and communal values, the students will declare the affirmations of their own shared values with the school’s values.

*Step 4 is Determine and Decide: Step 3 was a building block for Step 4 because in this step, the students are encouraged to take a look ahead. This step has the students researching the process of selecting their next school and then, in the decision-making process, determining what high school values are important to them.
*Step 5 is Experiment and Take Risks: This exercise is designed for students to take action by standing up for what they believe in. Knowing that sometimes the right thing to do is the hard thing to do, students are to examine tough situations which they may encounter. Having the courage to step up and do the right things is a strong indicator of character.

*Step 6, the final step to the Jemicy journey in leadership, is called Recognizing Others. The students are to write letters to two teachers who have impacted their time at Jemicy.

For those that have been attending Jemicy long enough, the students will select an influential lower school and middle school teacher. Those who arrived in sixth grade or later, can select two middle school teachers. The objective for this final step in their leadership journey is to look back not only at the recent history of middle school, but to explore their early beginnings at Jemicy and (1) recognize how far they have come in their development as a student and (2) reflect upon who they have become as they are about to graduate and begin their next endeavors.

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