Emerging Leadership In Pine Crest Middle School

Posted by Pine Crest School on March 1, 2024 at 8:33 AM

At Pine Crest Middle School, eighth grade students are offered a unique course option centered around emergent leadership. This course aims to nurture emergent leadership abilities, with a particular focus on developing skills essential to becoming entrepreneurs and leaders. Students will learn valuable skills such as collaboration, the art of public speaking, resiliency, and adaptability which are critical for their development as future leaders.


“All students are leaders,” said Middle School Instructor on the Fort Lauderdale campus, Mrs. Amanda Holender. “Sometimes, they just don't know it yet. Our approach is to help all of our students discover their leadership ability, and to believe in their capacity to lead.”


“As education evolves,” said Dr. Kristi Combs, Middle School Head on the Boca Raton campus, “we have realized that training our students to be leaders is an important foundational skill.  Emergent leaders enhance the performance of an organization while improving the lives of those around them. As the future unfolds and new skills are needed, emergent leaders will rise to meet those challenges.”    


““During Middle School, students are starting to explore what type of leader they want to be,” Dr. Combs continued. “The leadership course asks ‘what is needed in the community and how can it be achieved?’ They look at their own personal traits and skills, as well as those of the people around them, and ask ‘how can we tap into our passions and make it a reality?’ This sets students up for a reflective and forward-thinking mindset. The course expands students’ vision beyond themselves, and creates an openness to new ways of working and an awareness that their actions can impact others positively.” 


Mrs. Holender believes the leadership course is well-suited for eighth grade students. “Eighth graders are the leaders of the Middle School. Sixth and seventh grade students look to them as role models. At the same time, eighth graders are looking forward to a new division, a new way of life as they move into Upper School. There they will be presented with more opportunities, not just academically, but socially, athletically, and more. So many doors open for them in Upper School and developing that confidence and leadership in them now will help them choose to seize the right opportunities.”


Reflecting on why this course is important to have now, Mrs. Holender notes a recent email from Pine Crest School President Dr. Dana Markham ’18H. “Dr. Markham said in her recent letter to the faculty, that many of our students' futures don't exist yet—the things they will do don’t exist yet. As educators, we believe that our students need to have the skills not to just fill these jobs, but to create them. They are going to create our future.”


“I think adults can often underestimate what children are capable of, so children may underestimate what they are capable of. We needed to carve this space out in the curriculum to highlight our belief in students’ ability to do important things,” Mrs. Holender said.


The addition of emergent leadership to the Pine Crest School curriculum began during the 2021-22 school year to fulfill our mission of being global leaders and problem solvers. “This curriculum introduces more opportunities for hands-on, action-based learning projects so that students and teachers are not speaking abstractly about leadership,” said Dr. Combs. “We embed leadership, social emotional education (SEE), communication, and public speaking in our teaching starting in pre-kindergarten, and now with leadership being taught intentionally, we are able to reinforce these critical skills.” 


In defining emergent leadership, Mrs. Holender said, “Every student has the potential to be a leader. Depending on their individual skills and strengths, one student might rise to the occasion in a certain situation and there could be other situations when someone else might be a better fit. By default we think of leaders as the elected, but there are many opportunities where people step up voluntarily or help galvanize a movement. Those are the emergent leaders—they did not ask to lead, but fulfilled that role naturally because of their passions. They saw a need and rose to the challenge.”


“We believe that coaching students to see themselves as leaders will give them the mindset to tackle whatever comes their way.”


The learning objectives for this course are to explore and assess effective models of leadership and to practice leadership. 


“The class starts with an exploration of what it means to be a leader,” said Mrs. Holender. “The course encourages reflection, as we look at what characteristics leaders share and what characteristics the students already have that we need to recognize. Then we’ll move to what a leader does, and look at what actions leaders take. Our passion is to help students identify the various scenarios where they can lead; in their communities, among their friend groups, in the classroom, and in the sports arena. Then we will build the mindset of a leader and help students understand how to take action.”


Eighth grade students on the Boca Raton campus will take this course in the recently constructed Beyer Center for Emergent Leadership. The new facility was realized as part of Dr. Markham’s vision for our students in the 2019-2024 strategic plan. The intentional design of the building is to teach students the skills to make them successful in taking on global challenges. The two story building features classrooms for 2D and 3D design fabrication, computer science, robotics, and emergent technologies including augmented and virtual reality, eSports, artificial intelligence and coding. It is also home to the Middle School library, service learning space, and emergent leadership programming.


“Using a space designed for collaboration promotes elements of leadership like challenging our own perspectives and promoting discussions,” said Dr. Combs. “The building is equipped with technology to facilitate the sharing of ideas, presenting and engaging with others, not necessarily as a big group but in small groups and cohorts. The flexibility of the spaces lets us teach differently than we do in a standard classroom.”

Beyer Center Learning Commons

“We know that the global challenges students will face within the next five or 10 years are unknown,” said Dr. Combs. “We also know that Pine Crest students are the leaders of the future and are marching into the unknown—the jobs they will have may not exist yet. This vision came directly from Dr. Markham to make students successful. She is the most direct and clear leader about student growth and supporting students in all aspects of their development. She consistently asks the faculty, ‘How do we help each student grow to be their best self?’ We can do that by teaching them to be collaborative, inclusive, and to respect others. All of this comes alive in her guidance to us as faculty and staff when we talk about learning and inspiring teachers to create opportunities for students.”

Topics: Middle School, Academics, Pine Crest School, Student Leadership, The Magazine, 2024, emergent leadership