Phillipsburg teachers pass along lessons of leadership
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
QUINTER -- Jessica Billings and Rachel Miller both were active in student council during their high school days in Phillips County.
Now teachers at Phillipsburg High School, they wanted to give their students the same opportunities to learn about leadership.
So the pair asked Principal Todd Bowman if they could be co-sponsors. Bowman, who had been filling in as stuco sponsor, was more than happy to oblige.
"We went to our principal and asked if we could take over (the stuco program)," said Miller, a graduate of the former Eastern Heights High School in Agra who now teaches math at Phillipsburg. "We saw a need for student leadership in our hallways, and we knew that could be accomplished through student council."
Miller and Billings, a Phillipsburg alum and a special education teacher at her alma mater, believe so much in the benefits of stuco they registered their entire group of 12 students in stuco leadership roles for Tuesday's regional conference at Quinter High School.
More than 130 students from 13 area schools attended the conference, where featured speaker Lori Kiblinger from Chanute focused on the differences -- and likenesses -- of today's world and the world in which she grew up.
David Cherry, in charge of student council for the Kansas State High School Activities Association in Topeka, each year travels more than 3,000 miles to present at eight towns to 3,000 students for regional conferences.
Different than a lot of other states that host one large regional conference per year, KSHSAA thinks smaller regional events are more beneficial, Cherry said.
"You can break up into small groups that way," said Cherry, who was on day two of four scheduled for this week. "The fun part is we get to connect with a ton of people."
Cherry makes contact with stuco sponsors in different parts of the state to find hosts for the regional conferences.
This year, he called on Kelli Getz at Quinter to see if she and her stuco team would host the northwest Kansas regional.
"I asked our guys what they thought about it," Getz said of QHS stuco president Jesse Rausch and vice president Brett Crist. "They were game."
While Getz admitted hosting a conference is a lot of work, she also saw a lot of benefits.
"It's a good way to start off the year; we have to work together -- a lot," she said.
Working together was one of the points Kiblinger tried to get across to those in attendance Tuesday.
She listed words such as empathy, vulnerability and humility, generosity, balance and patience as key traits to leadership.
"Those are what people in the business world are looking for now," she said. "These are not qualities that would have been listed 10 to 15 years ago."
"If you have these qualities, you can build team," added Kiblinger, who has been involved in student council since her high school days in the 1970s. "If you can build team, you can accomplish anything."
That's what Billings and Martin are banking on.
"We told them we have a vision," Miller said of her students.
"They're looking for direction as they go through all this," Billings added. "They are very open to things. They'll come up and ask about different things, present different ideas."
"Give us a full year," Miller said, "and I think you'll see a difference at our school."