LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Kelly Leonard

Position: School Counselor
School: Southwest Elementary School
School District: Polk County Public Schools
City, State: Lakeland , FL

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Music that Describes Kelly

Kelly Leonard was nominated by her principal, Julie Sloan.

Miss Leonard has been a school counselor for two short years, and in that time, she has made a tremendous impact on her school. She is a member of the school leadership team as well as chair of the MTSS committee. Her ability to manage the daunting tasks placed upon a guidance counselor is top-notch. Miss Leonard builds strong relationships with students and colleagues.

Miss Leonard takes the task of dealing with students' mental health issues seriously. Miss Leonard seeks to support students' mental health by implementing many successful strategies at Southwest Elementary. For example, she encourages teachers to use the Sandford Harmony resources (a program that promotes social-emotional well-being through lessons, stories, songs, games, and more) to generate quality student-to-student conversations. Miss Leonard actively builds student mentor-to-mentee relationships when hosting lunch clubs for 2nd-5th grade students. Additionally, she facilitates grief groups allowing students to productively share their experiences in a safe and nurturing environment. Miss Leonard has also brought the Drum Beat program to SWE students. The Drum Beat program incorporates physical, behavioral, and cognitive elements to achieve positive relationship outcomes. 

Over the summer, while reviewing school data, Miss Leonard noticed a huge concern: the number of tardies and absences her school had the prior school year. She created an attendance incentive and presented awards at lunch every Monday. Due to her efforts, there has been a decrease in tardy and absent students this school year.  

Miss Leonard oversees her school's MTSS process, which is a system used to support students' learning and track their progress. She holds monthly data chat meetings with each teacher, and they discuss individual student progress and make any changes necessary to the student's intervention plan. Her dedication to this process ensures students' academic and behavioral needs are met.  

The Kids Pack program serves approximately 40 students at SWE. Miss Leonard has partnered with front office staff to guarantee students receive the Kids Pack items without interrupting their instructional day. Miss Leonard regularly monitors the student population and promptly addresses any needs as they arise, seeking various resources to assist the parents and students. During the holidays, Miss Leonard works closely with the Salvation Army to establish an Angel Tree program for SWE students and families. Staff, community partners, and other interested parties help deliver gifts and food to needy families.

"Our school is blessed to have found such a compassionate, student-centered school counselor. Miss Leonard is making a huge difference in the lives of our students," said Sloan.

Comments (16)

Patti Leonard Posted over a year ago

Kelly has focused on the feelings and emotions of others since she was a little girl, and has always empathized with anyone seeming sad or left out. It’s no surprise that she chose a career that centers on helping and supporting children, especially those who need extra care and counseling. I’m so proud of the steps that she has taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the students at her school and the initiatives that she has started to aid the most disadvantaged. Kelly makes the world a better place, and is a role model for all of us!

Kaitlyn Amico Posted over a year ago

Kelly is very deserving of this award. We FaceTime daily and she is always brainstorming on how to help the kids in her school and community. She is passionate about her job and works overtime to do the best she can.

Laura Ehrnsberger Posted over a year ago

Kelly is a great role model to all - kind, selfless, and honorable. She is immensely dedicated to her students and always goes the extra mile for them. She is making the world a better place! Kelly is so deserving of this!

Alise Posted over a year ago

Kelly is a kind, warm person and her passion for students and their education is evident. She deserves to be recognized for her hard work!

Leigh Gore Posted over a year ago

How fortunate the children are for all you do for them! You are a life changer!!

Brittany Jennings Posted over a year ago

Love you Kelly ???? deserving for sure!

Autumn Stanton Posted over a year ago

So deserving!!

Joseph Howes Posted over a year ago

I have known Kelly for 14 years and she has always been the type of person to go above and beyond! She always puts others before herself and there is nobody else I can think of that deserves this award more than Kelly Leonard!

Kelly Leonard Posted over a year ago

I am so blessed to work at a school filled with so many wonderful students and staff. I love my job and I am honored to be nominated!

Juliana Porcides Posted over a year ago

Kelly you are a joy to know and you make a difference in all our lives in and out of the class room! Your friends love you for all that you are and so I’m sure the kids you care for love you as well and you are making a life long impact whether you see it now or not!

Brandi Neagles Posted over a year ago

Kelly has impacted my life so much. She always goes out of her way to make sure everyone else is our first before herself & it truly it truly shows the person she is. She is a light to everyone she encounters & truly deserves the recognition.

Katelyn Gore Posted over a year ago

Kelly is the best!

Thomas Gore Posted over a year ago

Kelly is literally the best person I know. She has a heart bigger than anyone and shows that each day with her students! Kelly is so deserving of this award and I am so thankful to know her

Brandon Beebe Posted over a year ago

Kelly is the best there ever was at what she does. She changes lives for the better. If more people were like Kelly, the world would be a much better place.

Amber owens Posted over a year ago

Kelly is amazing! She has made such an impact on her students as well as her family and friends!

Krystal Mandile Posted over a year ago

Kelly goes above and beyond for her colleagues, student and staff. She does not need to be asked to do things she happily volunteers and then goes above and beyond for the job! She is amazing and deserves this award! You can count on her for anything.