Greg Leach has a passion for reading.
That makes his winning of the Service Award for School Administrators presented by the Missouri Association of School Librarians that much more special.
Leach is the principal at McDonald County High School. He was nominated for the award by Jill Williams, the librarian at MCHS. Williams said the award recognizes one administrator in the state annually for making a significant contribution to furthering a library program.
"I was super excited and very honored when Jill (Williams) told me I had won," Leach said. "I am very proud but more important and more pleased that Jill Williams would nominate me. I know we also had some teachers write letters in support of me, so just the fact that my staff supported me was more important than winning. Whether I won or not was a sidebar, but the fact the staff cared enough to nominate me and write letters was the important part."
Leach has been with the McDonald County School District since beginning as an assistant principal at Noel Elementary and Junior High School in 1997. After one year at Noel, he moved to the high school where he was an assistant principal for 15 years before serving as principal the past five years.
During his five years at MCHS, the high school has scored in the mid to high 90s (out of 100) on the state's Annual Performance Report. Components of the APR score include test scores, college and career readiness, attendance and graduation rate.
McDonald County High School has also been named as one of the top high schools in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report all five years of Leach's service. Leach was also selected as the Emerging Principal of the Year in the Big 8 Conference in 2014. That same year the school was recognized for distinction by the National Advanced Placement Board.
But it was Leach's passion for reading and his belief in the importance of reading that led to his most recent award.
"To me, literacy is what it's all about," Leach said. "That should be our number one focus. Regardless of the class, we focus on literacy. If kids can read, they can be successful. I have always been a reader. I started when I was in junior high. My dad had a bunch of Louis L'Amour books and I started reading those. So I have always been a reader. I have always bought books and try to get my kids to read. I like to have 'book talks' with kids here at school because I am still a reader. I have a book going at home at all times. I don't think I could have been near as successful in life if I didn't have that background in reading."
Williams said she nominated Leach because of his overwhelming support of the library and of her efforts to expand its role in students' educational experience.
"I chose Greg because he has done so much for the library," Williams said. "Honestly, I don't think the man has told me no. If I go up and ask for some crazy idea that I do down here, he supports me 100 percent because he cares about literacy. I know he loves reading himself. He donates his personal books to the library."
Leach said donating books to the library comes naturally.
"For Christmas every year I get multiple books," Leach said. "That's one of the things I ask for. So why would I put that book on a shelf when I can bring it here and a kid can get some enjoyment out of it."
But Williams said not only does Leach support the library, he takes an active role in helping students in their search of reading material.
"I had a kid come in who was an especially Stephen King fan and I am not," Williams said. "He wanted to know something about a book, so I just sent a quick text to Greg and two minutes later he was walking through the door talking to this kid about the King books."
Williams' latest project is the "SWEAT Shop." The Stimulating, Whimsical, Exploring, Artistic Thinking Shop is a place for creating. The space includes a green screen (for filming), whiteboards, robotics and many other materials to help students with their creations.
"We had one girl build an old-time x-ray machine out of wood, jars and other stuff we had in there," Williams said. "Greg just says yes, yes, yes to whatever we want to do."
Williams said she began the application in October. She said she received an email on Jan. 20 notifying her that Leach had won.
"It was on a Saturday so I called Greg at home," Williams said. "I was so excited because I knew they only pick one from the entire state. I so wanted him to win it because of his constant support. I hope he is here forever and keeps saying yes to stuff here in the library. He is very deserving."
Leach and his wife Lana have four children: Billy, a 2016 graduate of MCHS, Mattie, a junior at MCHS, Bo, an eighth-grader at Southwest City, and Brooks, a fourth-grader at SWC.Community on 02/01/2018
Print Headline: MCHS Principal Greg Leach A Winner