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Norwalk Spear

NHS Earns Lighthouse Recognition

Norwalk is the second high school in Iowa to receive this honor
Submitted Photo
Members of the Lighthouse Team pose for a photo recently in the library. The Lighthouse Team spearheaded the school’s efforts to achieve Lighthouse status.

Norwalk recently became one of two high schools in Iowa to achieve Lighthouse recognition from Leader in Me, an evidence-based program designed to maximize student success and create healthy habits.

“I do believe that the roots of the seven habits of highly effective people really do have a strong impact on people’s lives,” said Mariah Brown, an English teacher and Lighthouse facilitator at Norwalk. “I believe in those ideas and want to help adults and students feel more in control of their lives.”

Achieving Lighthouse recognition means that a school has been recognized for having outstanding achievements and high success with implementing the Leader in Me program.

A collective group of students, teachers, and other adults had worked together in preparation for the last four years and during the tour earlier this year where Norwalk was evaluated.

Mariah Brown was one of two Lighthouse facilitators for teachers and a big contributor to Norwalk’s success. Brown said joining the Lighthouse team aligned with her goals.

“I wanted to make a difference,” she said. I wanted this place to not only be somewhere that students feel welcomed, a sense of belonging, important, engaged both academically and socially; but also staff. So when the opportunity came up for me to apply for that Lighthouse facilitator position, it just seemed like the right thing to do.”

Brown said that she has invested in Leader in Me’s ideology.

“[Leader in Me’s] pillars really rely on culture, academics, and leadership,” she said. “All three of those things matter to me, and I don’t see them as stand-alone entities. If you pull one of those things away, you can’t have the other two hold up the district or the school.”

Chris Basinger is the principal at Norwalk High School and was one of the main leaders that worked towards this recognition. Basinger said this recognition was a good sign of where things are heading.

“We know the ideas in Leader in Me are important, and getting the certification tells us that the work we are doing is the right work and moving in the right direction,” Basinger said.

We have a lot of opportunities to develop leaders, and in the end, that’s probably a more important skill than any other classroom skills that students are getting from school.

— Chris Basinger

Basinger said this opportunity allowed them to reflect on the school.

“From the certification visit, we got a report back that listed our strength areas and areas we can continue to grow,” he said. “Our Lighthouse team has identified some areas that we think that we can make some changes in. We want to look at bringing back student-led conferences, doing more work centered around a portfolio, and goal-setting with students.”

Basinger said this recognition reflects what Norwalk does in the school.

“When you read the report, you can see the opportunities we provide students to lead,” Basinger said. “It may not be a major role, like student body president, but there are opportunities to be a section leader in marching band, there are opportunities to be on an action team doing work you feel like is important to you.”

Basinger said the skills this award has recognized are beneficial to the future.

“We have a lot of opportunities to develop leaders, and in the end, that’s probably a more important skill than any other classroom skills that students are getting from school,” he said.

Maria Fleming is a Leader in Me coach and consultant who has worked with Norwalk for four years. Fleming said that this recognition benefits Norwalk moving forward.

“This means that other schools, especially secondary schools, will be looking to you for ideas on how to make Leader in Me work for their schools,” she said. “It also means that Norwalk High School will continue to work to get even better. Anytime a school has a Lighthouse review, they get feedback not only on their strengths but also on areas to grow. “

Fleming said that this recognition was hard-earned.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with your school leaders for the past four years, and this is a wonderful culmination of a lot of hard work on the part of many people in your school community,” she said.

Fleming said that a lot of credit went toward the Lighthouse facilitators, Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Ashbacher.

“They have worked so hard to carry out a vision for what Leader in Me could mean at your high school, and it’s really paying off with this recognition, in addition to all the wonderful impacts on your school and students,” she said.

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Brayden Plourde
Brayden Plourde, Staff Writer
Brayden Plourde is a sophomore at NHS taking his first semester of journalism this year. Brayden is involved in multiple sports such as football, swimming, and track. One of his favorite things to do is watch movies, and one of his top picks is Ace Ventura Pet Detective. Something interesting about Brayden is that he was born in Rhode Island and has lived in 4 different states. “I want to be a sports journalist so it's a great opportunity to see if this is something I want to do when I'm older," he said.
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