• 2013 Salute to Education
    Building Student Character as a Team

    Wanda Patrice LeFlore, Ed.D., principal at Kennard Academy, Excellence in Education Awardee

    Photo by Wiley Price

    By Andrew Fowler

    For The St. Louis American

    Wanda LeFlore is the principal at Kennard Classical Junior Academy in the St. Louis Public School District, which has earned a reputation of educating high-achieving, gifted students.

    The school is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon school for showing continued student growth. That growth is something that LeFlore works toward each school year. This autumn she began her fifth year as principal of Kennard.

    She always knew, even from a young age, that she wanted to be in the education field.

    “When I was very young, I used to play school at the end of the school year,” LeFlore said.

    “The teachers would give all the students the leftover papers and I would take the papers home and play school with my younger siblings. I decided who would attend, when school would start and what would be taught. My friends called it ‘bossy,’ but I call it ‘learning to teach.’”

    LeFlore graduated from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville for her undergraduate education, then attended Saint Louis University to get her master’s degree and Maryville University for her doctoral degree in educational leadership.

    Her research for her thesis focused on the effects of implementing a school-wide character education program and how it would affect student achievement and behavior. That character education program is now one of the hallmark methods used at Kennard. She says the program “defines who we are and how we want to help develop and support our children.”

    Each year, a survey is sent out to parents asking them what are the most important core values. A team of administrators and teachers figures out the top three core values from the survey, which the school focuses on developing throughout the school year.

    “As a team, we make sure we invite our parents and students into decisions that we make about character education here at Kennard,” LeFLore said.

    While she always knew that she wanted to be an educator, she did not know that she would become a principal.

    “When I was instructional coordinator at Mallinckrodt, I was actually on lunch duty and a kindergarten student came to me and hugged me.“ She looked at me and said, ‘Thank you for being my principal,’” LeFlore said

    “And I wasn’t even a principal at the time. But she was so sincere and the message was so clear. I often oftentimes think, ‘Did she know something that I didn’t know?’”

    In 2011, LeFlore was honored by the St. Louis Public Schools with the Pettus Principal Award for her impact on the lives of students in that role.

    Before working as a principal, LeFlore served the St. Louis Public Schools in several capacities. LeFlore educated gifted children at Yeatman Middle School, worked as a gifted language arts teacher at McKinley Middle School and was the literacy facilitator at Mallinckrodt Academy of Gifted Instruction.

    She first came to Kennard as the assistant principal, then was the principal of Oak Hill Elementary School before returning to Kennard five years ago as principal.

    Having worked in various gifted education programs, LeFlore is on the Advisory Panel for the National Association for Gifted Children, which helps educators and the community better understand the needs of gifted children.

    “There are differences, and you want to make sure you provide opportunities,” LeFlore said. “Some students come with special social needs as well as special learning abilities, and we have to help those students reach their potential.”

    As a principal, LeFlore focuses on ensuring that the faculty members she leads have everything they need to successfully provide a quality education for the students of Kennard.

    “One of things that I do to inspire the teachers is to let them know we are providing opportunities for all students,” LeFLore said. “I do that by leading. I lead by modeling and setting an example.”

    In addition to leading by example, LeFlore is sure to create an environment where the faculty is able to work together as a team.

    “We meet in teams, we analyze data as a team, plan as a team,” LeFlore said. “It’s working together as a team to make sure our students are learning. Our focus is results.”

    Back when she was a child playing school in the summer months, LeFlore was confident that education was the career field for her. Her confidence has not waivered after 30 years in the education field.

    “I may get a hug or a high five,” LeFlore said. “And for me, it’s a reaffirmation that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.