Ms. Lisa Whirtley, teacher and student council adviser at Blennerhassett Middle School in Parkersburg, WV, has been named the 2018 Warren E. Shull National Middle Level Adviser of the Year. Ms. Whirtley was announced and presented with the award during the National Student Conference held in Plymouth, MN, in June. The annual award is named for Warren E. Shull, the founder of National Student Council, and recognizes middle level student council advisers of exemplary character, leadership of and commitment to young people, who foster their students’ development as leaders.
Ms. Whirtley is a classroom teacher at Blennerhassett and has advised the student council for 13 years. During that time, she has helped her young leaders understand that the primary value of their student council is to give all students a voice. “Schools are for students. They should have a say in how things affect them.” Ms. Whirtley accepts the responsibility to guide her student leaders in discovering their voice.
Because middle school students are often experiencing leadership for the first time, Ms. Whirtley tailors their first council experiences with basic skills such as parliamentary procedures, organizing, and community involvement. Learning to encourage others and putting efforts to create a positive school atmosphere are also practiced. “Future leaders go down many paths. Regardless of their direction, student council gives them the confidence to use their voice. It helps keep them involved in more aspects of their world than previously may have been thought, and it helps lead students to becoming better, more productive citizens.”
Under Ms. Whirtley’s guidance, the Blennerhassett student council has become a valuable part of the school and community. Their efforts have included such school projects as Swim and a Movie, and a teacher spelling bee. The council regularly honors veterans with its Flag Days project that allows veterans and their families to sign forms that are attached to flags displayed on the school’s front lawn. Caroling at a local nursing home is an annual activity that takes the council members into the community to spend time with seniors who unfortunately have few visitors during the holidays.
Ms. Whirtley’s teaching and leadership skills have not gone unnoticed. In 2014, she was named Teacher of the Year at the middle school and for the school district. Her student council engagement at the state level has taken her to her current position of executive director for the West Virginia Association of Student Council where she works collaboratively with the state officers to host workshops, conferences, and annual service projects. Ms. Whirtley is also active at the national level as a regular attendee at the National Student Council Conference and LEAD conferences, and her student council is a past winner of the National Gold Council of Excellence award.
Of Ms. Whirtley, Melanie Arthur, principal of Blennerhassett says, “The best way to describe Ms. Whirtley, as a teacher, is that she ‘brings it every day.’ The ‘it’ reflects enthusiasm, experience, and love for kids and education. This is truly the excitement of a Master Teacher.” Jack Waugaman Jr., assistant principal, wrote, “Lisa exhibits great leadership, insight, and patience in being able to bring the best out of the student leaders and to allow them to be creative and to grow as leaders. Students who had the good fortune to be elected to student council for multiple years under Lisa’s tutelage moved on to high school well-prepared and well-experienced as leaders.”
Alia Ott, the 2017–18 student body president at Blennerhassett, noted, “She always gives her input if she thinks that we might have trouble with something, or gives us some options to help get us going if we don’t know what to do. Ms. Whirtley also gets involved with the activities and helps out wherever we need it. She helps us learn new things because she has the ability to guide and teach us.”
For her efforts to develop emerging leaders and a student council program that fosters student engagement and builds a positive school atmosphere, National Student Council congratulates Ms. Lisa Whirtley on being named the 2018 Warren E. Shull National Middle Level Adviser of the Year.