ELBERTA - It’s been three years since Jenny Breazeale became the principal of Elberta Elementary School, and each year she’s set forth on conquering a challenge set before the school. Her first …
ELBERTA - It’s been three years since Jenny Breazeale became the principal of Elberta Elementary School, and each year she’s set forth on conquering a challenge set before the school. Her first year as principal marked the first year the school became a K-6, and she worked with her staff and students to integrate two schools and faculties into one. Year two saw her tasking her staff to remember their ‘why,’ or purpose while at the school.
“I wanted everyone to reflect on why we do what we do, and when we walked through that journey it was remembering our students were our why,” Breazeale said. “I’m not saying we were off our path, but our school has been a Leader In Me school since approximately 2013 and I wanted to bring that back into focus. Once we had accomplished bringing two faculties together and creating that culture, it was time to reflect on our why.”
She realized her challenge to face this year when listening to a sermon over summer that discussed going beyond ourselves and seeing what others might be going through. Now that the staff had their why in focus, Breazeale challenged them to look beyond their own problems and leave them at the door of the school during the #BeyondOurselves initiative, and to see what the community and students may be going through.
“Sometimes we don’t realize the extent of our impact on a child’s life,” Breazeale said. “That reminded me that when we come here to school, we have to think beyond ourselves. We can get bogged down in so many things and our priorities may become off, and we’ve got to prioritize. Now that we know our why we need to focus on our why, and not get bogged down in the paperwork, in the emails, or get stressed over the new curriculum … If we focus on the stress, stress on doing this or doing that, then we begin to put the focus on us, where this job is about the children.”
Breazeale says that teachers are given specific gifts to help them meet the needs of their students, and it’s important to look beyond themselves to see things the students might be going through that they don’t outwardly show. She spent several hours at the beginning of the school year discussing the initiative with her staff and reminding them a child may sometimes come to school with an invisible backpack, shouldering problems the teachers and staff might not know about.
It’s not just the children Breazeale asked her staff to look beyond themselves and focus on, either, but the children’s families as well.
“That child could have an invisible backpack, but so could their mom or dad or guardian,” she said. “When I asked my staff to think beyond themselves, I need them to think beyond to that child and that family, because we impact the families too.”
Breazeale doesn’t want parents to only come to the school for academic events or because of being called due to a situation with their child. She wants the students’ parents and guardians to have a positive relationship with the school and feel welcome there, and happy to send their children each weekday morning.
“I want my staff to work on building those positive relationships with the families of our students,” Breazeale said. “This year, our leadership team has been working on planning fun events where families can come in just to see what we have going on in the school.”
She says the initiative is too new to determine the overall success or where it will be by the end of the school year, but the message of looking #BeyondOurselves is spreading around the school, not just to the staff but to the students and parents as well. Breazeale says she has noticed some subtle shifts since the implementation of the project, and hopes to see a lasting effect.
“I’ve begun to see a change and a positive impact,” she said. “The interactions that I see us having with the parents are different, and in a good way. There’s more talking, more smiling, and we’re communicating with them that we want to be a community school.”
For more information on Elberta Elementary School, visit their website at www.bcbe.org/elberta or follow them on Facebook.