Archive for Saturday, April 22, 2006

Former teacher takes helm of Leadership Lawrence program

City commissioner puts education background to use

April 22, 2006

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Sue Hack, recently appointed as the new director of Leadership Lawrence, keeps reaping the benefits of a background in education.

"I absolutely love teaching," she said. "One of the things that has drawn me to Leadership Lawrence is the opportunity to continue teaching. I've loved it."

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Each year, the Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Leadership Lawrence enrolls 25 community members. The classmates attend nine day-long classes, each on a different theme.

As interim planning director since last fall, Hack's teaching proficiencies have already changed the way Leadership Lawrence is run.

"I have an objective for each day, along with an activity guide, to make sure we're not duplicating activities on different days. That's what teachers do," she said.

"I haven't had to ask anyone to spit out their gum, so I am kind of walking away, but I can't escape from my teaching," she said with a laugh.

For next year, she plans to add more classroom curriculum-type guidelines to the group's activities.

"Everyone learns things differently - someone could listen to a speaker all day, while someone else learns best from role playing," she said. "We try to do a little of everything within each day."

Hack said the primary objective she stresses for Leadership Lawrence members is the same one she tried to instill in her ninth-graders.

"What I wanted students to take away is that communities thrive because of the people who take time to give back to them," she said. "I tell students to find their passion, whether it's health care or the environment or whatever, and find something to allow you to give back to it."

Lijia Lyles, Lawrence resident, had Hack as a junior high teacher in the 1970s. She remembers Hack's enthusiasm.

"Her passion was addictive," Lyles said about Hack. "I always thought to myself, 'I hope I care someday like she does.' She wasn't afraid to put the 'book' aside and allow open discussions. She let you know that your opinion matters and that it takes very little action to cause movement."

Lyles said Hack was her favorite teacher.

"She is one of the few teachers that I remember both fondly and respectfully," Lyles said.

Hack is in her second four-year term on the Lawrence City Commission, where she has served as mayor. She recently resigned from the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, but only because she was chosen to direct Leadership Lawrence. Before all that, she taught social studies in Lawrence junior highs for almost 30 years.

After Hack's retirement but before she entered public office, Hack graduated from the Leadership Lawrence class of 2000. In part, she attributes her run for the city commission to it.

She described what she remembers most from her class six years ago.

"I was surprised that, having lived in Lawrence for such a long time, I knew just a fraction of the various pieces that make up Lawrence, whether in the arts, health and human services, higher education or the business component. I grew to appreciate the community even more," she said.

"And, I learned a lot about leadership skill learning styles. We think we have them, but when we get some help, we know we still have a long way to go."

Janette Crawford is a freelance writer in Lawrence.

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