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Students find leadership within
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Kimber Barindelli, a student at Patricia Kay Beaver Elementary School, gave a short speech during Leadership Day, explaining the ways her school is teaching her to be a leader. Other students (below) sang songs about leadership qualities during the event.

Lots of schools across America tout themselves as the greatest but students who participated in Thursday’s Leadership Day event at Patricia Kay Beaver showed they believe just that.

The event gave the school a chance to demonstrate to parents and the community what sets it apart since opening in 2015. Located about two miles outside of Ceres on S. Central Avenue, Beaver Elementary School’s theme is promoting leadership. Students performed and gave speeches to about 150 who attended and tours were offered of the campus.

Principal Libby Callahan – whose late mother Kay Beaver is the namesake for the school – said leadership is “kind of abstract so we thought this would give the community a good chance to see what the kids and teachers are doing and really what the leadership piece is all about.”

Callahan said while the concept of leadership is fairly new in school curriculum, Beaver’s staff is “really teaching them the skills that they need to be successful throughout high school, college and career.”

Beaver Elementary School is the Ceres Unified School District’s only leadership and character development magnet program. “The Leader in Me” program is based on a student version of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” Those habits call for students to:

• Be proactive;

• Begin with the end in mind;

• Put first things first;

• Think win-win;

• Seek first to understand then to be understood;

• Synergize;

• “Sharpen the saw,” or “Taking care of the body, mind and soul.”

Unlike most Ceres schools which have attendance boundaries, Beaver School accepts students from the area – provided that parents are willing to drive them to and from campus daily.

“There are a few other schools which run the same type of program but I believe we are the only magnet school that takes students outside of our (CUSD) boundaries,” said Callahan.

The school is listed on the “Leader in Me” website but she said parents hear about it through social media and word of mouth.

“We have a lot of parents who recommend our school along with our own teachers who often talk about what we do.”

The school’s leadership and character component seeks to develop academic learning with a focus on critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and leadership skills needed for success. Leadership qualities are imparted to students through modeling the seven habits by the staff, explained Callahan. Leadership language is “embedded” in classroom lessons. Callahan said the concept of “put first things first” is a way to encourage students to prioritize the most important things as to do first, such as do homework before playing video games.

Curriculum is also applied academic learning through the study of earth science systems, natural phenomenon, social issues impacted by science, alternative energy, and green living using inquiry and project based learning. Beaver also helps foster literacy, imagination, competency and creativity in an academic environment infused with arts and Spanish language instruction.

When Beaver opened it was a K-4th grade campus but it’s developed into a junior high campus.

“The intent was for those fourth-graders to become our first promoting class of eighth-graders,” said Callahan.

Junior high students are offered a technology component – such as video production, computer coding, design and 3-D printing and robotics – to develop problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and creative and innovative reasoning through application of communication, science, and mathematics. Callahan feels the program will give her students a head start if they decide to be a part of Ceres High School Manufacturing Academy or Central Valley High School’s video production.

“The focus is on critical thinking, communication, collaboration with service groups in the area. We want to be developing leaders who are cooperative, responsible, risk takers. Want to give kids the opportunity to try new things and learn from those experiences.”

Students routinely get involved in community service projects, often raising funds for causes like the Toys for Tots Drive, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Alex’s Lemonade Stand for cancer patients, Pennies for Patients for leukemia patients, and breast cancer awareness event to raise funds for the Susan Komen Foundation. The recent fires in Northern California prompted students to raise money for its victims.

“We try to find where the need is and teach the kids what it feels like to give back,” the principal said.

Beaver Elementary has approximately 400 students but is sized for about 600.

“We have a few grade levels that have a wait list. Currently we only have one class of fifth-graders but it’s because I don’t have enough kids on my wait list to open up a second class. We have space for it.”

During Thursday’s event Callahan grew emotional when addressing the parents. She later explained it’s because her mother, who passed away 18 years ago, would be very proud of her and the school.

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Students at Patricia Kay Beaver performed a number of songs crafted during annual Leadership Day.
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Beaver Elementary School now has seventh- and eighth-graders who are wild about their school.