With a membership of more than 400 students, the Collinsville High School Student Council holds the distinction as being the largest student council among the 20,000 high schools in the nation, according to the National Association of Student Councils.
That means that for every five students you see on campus, one of them is involved in after-school volunteerism and leadership activities.
And the teacher who has lead that effort since 2002 is being recognized for his work. Kyle Gordon has been named the 2013 Illinois Student Council Adviser of the Year and the Region Five Student Council Adviser of the Year (in a six-state region) by the National Association of Student Councils. He is also a finalist for the group’s biggest award: the Warren E. Shull Student Council Adviser of the Year.
Gary Clark, a retired Collinsville High School teacher, is the executive director of the Illinois chapter of the National Association of Student Councils. He formerly led the student council himself and has mentored Gordon in the role. Clark said the main reason Gordon is able to keep several hundred students motivated and interested in an extra-curricular activity is because of the relationship he develops with them.
The kids absolutely love the man because he cares, Clark said. He gives them the opportunity to be more than what they think they can be. He believes in them.
Autumn Hunsinger is a junior at the high school. She has been a member of the Student Council since her freshman year. She said Gordon goes the extra mile to connect with his students.
He makes everyone feel involved and he can relate to us, Hunsinger said. Some teachers don’t want to be involved in their student’s lives. He tries to be involved in our lives even after we graduate.
Student Council president Ryan Smith said he feels Gordon has stuck with him through thick and thin.
I can be a little high maintenance, said the high school senior. And he can wrangle it all and he’ll make it work. Even if you’re a kid who thinks you won’t enjoy anything or you hate high school, he will make sure you enjoy it.
Gordon said the mission of the Collinsville Student Council is to help students learn leadership skills by providing service to the community. Two of the Student Council’s annual projects include a senior prom for the visitors of the Collinsville Senior Center and åÒadoptingåÓ the students at Kreitner Elementary School for Christmas by having Santa, Mrs. Claus and their elves deliver gifts to every student.
The Student Council is also involved in school activities like its anti-bullying week in March and helps out other communities. For example, the council collected donations for the Sandy Hook community that was involved in a fatal school shooting.
Gordon said the Collinsville High School Student Council stands out because members do not have to be elected by other students. The membership is open to any student who wants to be involved in their community.
In many schools, Student Council is all about getting elected, Gordon said. My philosophy is if a student wants to serve their school, they want to serve their community, they should be given the opportunity. I view my job as trying to get as many students as possible involved with the school and the community and pretty much teaching them leadership skills for use at CHS and in their future endeavors.
High school principal Eric Flohr said students learn leadership from Gordon by his example.
He’s not a ‘me’ type of person, Flohr said. He’s the type of leader that puts the spotlight on others, not himself. That’s the sign of a leader. It just speaks volumes of his leadership to somehow get so many students excited to be part of our Student Council. Our students are so active not only in school, but also in the community. It’s definitely a beacon of light for our high school.
Gordon, 36, is originally from Fairview Heights and graduated from Belleville East High School. He teaches history at Collinsville High School, where he began his teaching career in 1998. In addition to this recent award, Gordon was also named the 2009 Illinois Student Council Adviser of the Year, a 2011 Emerson Excellence in Education awardee and was a 2004 Disney American Teacher Award nominee.
Clark said Gordon is also being recognized for the 2013 award because members of his Student Council show leadership beyond the Collinsville community.
Collinsville has had the most state officers (on the Illinois Student Council) than any other school in the state of Illinois, Clark said. The Student Council has received the Gold Council of Excellence award and Collinsville is the only school in the state of Illinois that has (won) it for every year since (the award’s) inception.
One of those state officers is Ryan McClary, a senior who serves as treasurer for the Illinois Student Council. And it’s clear from this young leader that Gordon’s influence will reach into the future.
Since my freshman year, Mr. Gordon has taken me under his wing and guided me, McClary said. He’s my mentor, without a doubt.