Midland ISD builds leadership skills in secondary students

Midland ISD builds leadership skills in secondary students

iLead curriculum is student-led, aims to build strong character traits

December 1, 2023 — Education is about far more than age-old reading, writing and arithmetic.

“We’re focused on building the whole student,” said Shannon Torres, a former Legacy High School principal who has seen firsthand the importance of developing strong character traits in secondary school. 

Torres, who now serves as the Executive Director of Leadership overseeing Midland ISD’s high schools and junior high schools, notes that leadership and interpersonal relationship skills are critical. And while the Texas Education Agency requires school districts to integrate positive character traits education into its curricula, MISD has been looking for a program that secondary students really connect with.

The Region 18 Education Service Center has also been searching for such a program to make available to the West Texas districts it assists. Earlier this year, they may have found a great fit.

iLead, created by the much-lauded Maxwell Leadership Foundation, offers a values-based leadership curriculum that not only has found success in other districts nationwide, but addresses a drawback MISD has found in other programs.

“iLead is student-led,” Torres said. Teachers don’t have to create or produce anything, which eases the burden on their already-heavy workload. “It’s a leadership curriculum that puts students in charge from the outset.”

For between 30 and 45 minutes each week, MISD’s high school and middle school students work together in small groups and lead the lessons, such as how to make choices that affect lives in a positive way. 

“As students progress through the course, they’ll develop a shared language around the value lessons they work through,” said Christine Foreman, Region 18 Public Relations Liaison. “And they’ll carry this shared language with them as they mature.” 

A seventh-grader’s interpersonal relationships aren’t likely to be the same when they’re in 11th grade. “A goal is for all students to have a strong foundation of positive character traits so that they’re coming from the same place when they interact with each other, no matter their maturity level,” Foreman said.

This summer, Region 18 pitched iLead to its 32 districts as a pilot program for the fall semester. Seven signed on, including MISD. The feedback so far has been positive.

“I love this program,” said Kristi Leeper, who has implemented iLead with her credit-recovery students at LHS. “It gives kids an avenue to articulate and voice their perspective, as well as helps them realize that their own ideas likely differ from others and how to be considerate in light of this.”

Scott Hicks, who teaches social studies at Alamo Junior High, notes parallels between being a coach and classroom teacher. 

“Character development is very important not only for building a great team, but also for building great individuals,” he said. “I like iLead because students learn positive character traits in an easy, yet effective, way, and I can already see the benefit in my students, particularly in being honest self-evaluations and goal setting — critical skills that students will carry with them throughout their lives.”

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Media Relations Contact:
Trevor Hawes
Communications Specialist
432-240-1044 | trevor.hawes@midlandisd.net