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LISD:60 - Leadership Library

A student at LHS Killough is using literature to develop her leadership skills.

Promoting growth through reading is one of Emily Wallace’s primary goals for her classroom. The LHS Killough ELA teacher has spent her career encouraging students to read, not just as a tool for education, but for discovery and connection. Kyren Perez-Maya, a student in Wallace’s class, recently took these ideas a step further when she reached out to acclaimed author Jon Gordon.

Perez-Maya, an avid reader seeking positive literature, asked Wallace for a recommendation during the class’s dedicated reading time, and was met with a stack of options. Wallace, a long-time fan of Jon Gordon, has been connecting with the author’s messages on leadership and teamwork since her days as a coach. In 2014, she had the opportunity to meet with him after a speaking engagement for LISD. Feeling that it contained the positive content that Perez-Maya was seeking, Wallace included a copy of his book The Carpenter as a possibility for her student.

“He does a great job of teaching leadership skills, positive thinking, inspirational ideas through a story format that I feel students can really connect with,” said Wallace. “[Kyren] came to me and said ‘I kind of just want something inspirational,’ so I chose a few nonfiction books and I thought of Jon Gordon. I slipped my favorite – The Carpenter – into the stack and was hopeful that she would choose it.”

She could not have been more correct.

Perez-Maya tore through the book in a single night, and returned to class the following day wanting to read more of Gordon’s works. Wallace was more than happy to oblige, calling on LHS Killough principal Dr. Kyndra Tyler and district librarians to amass as much of the Jon Gordon collection as possible.

“I wanted different information,” said Perez-Maya. “Everything is just negative and I wanted something that could be a light in the darkness. I read The Carpenter and it was a feeling that I had ever experienced.”

After seeing the impact that his books had made on Perez-Maya, Wallace and Dr. Tyler encouraged her to write a letter of gratitude to the author. With Wallace’s help, Perez-Maya sent a message to the email on Gordon’s website. Both admitted that they never really expected a response.

A reply came within minutes.

“It was just the email on the website,” laughed Wallace. “We were like ‘there’s no way he’s going to read this.’ And five minutes later Dr. Tyler was sitting in a meeting and she got an email back saying ‘this made my day, my month and my year to get to hear from a student that my books have impacted.’”

During block lunch, Perez-Maya had found her favorite reading spot on the Killough campus but was interrupted with the good news by Wallace and Dr. Tyler. Along with a response thanking the student for her kind words, Gordon also invited Perez-Maya and guests to attend a leadership conference that he was hosting in Southlake.

Perez-Maya was elated to bring along Wallace and Dr. Tyler, but sharing the moment with her father was the real prize. She credits him with inspiring her love for reading, and was so enlightened by her experience reading Gordon’s books that she has begun acquiring the Spanish versions to share with her father.

“My dad is the one who really brought me towards books,” explained Perez-Maya. “I always saw him reading, all the time, constantly. I think whenever you have that model you always want to copy that person so I just started following that. I know he’s always reading and growing as a person.”

During the conference, the Killough delegation participated in various team-building exercises, interacted with other leadership-minded individuals and even had an opportunity to meet with Jon Gordon himself.

Perez-Maya hopes to share her experience and what she’s learned about positivity and leadership with others.

“I learned a lot. You always get the type of information that people seem like they know it but they really don’t. So I think hearing from people that truly genuinely want to help other people and gain information to be a better leader definitely helps.”