Top support employee proves offbeat lessons make improvements | K 12

LIBERTY — Rob Leytham is that cool, tall guy at Ridgeview Elementary School. He sports a grayish-blond ponytail, small oval silver-framed glasses and a smile that is infectious to students and staff alike.

Leytham was named the Liberty School District Support Employee of the Year for the 2022-23 school year.

When he had a moment to offer a few words to the school staff at a surprise meeting, the support staffer and drummer said when he was a budding musician, he idolized rock stars, but also others closer to home.

“But, my heroes were my parents and teachers always,” he said. “I realized that doing this job, I get to hang around with people you want to be like.”

Leytham serves as the CARE room teacher. CARE stands for “Calming and Recovery Environment.” Students dealing with in-school discipline issues may be sent to the room.

Art teacher Belinda Ambrose said Leytham deserves the recognition.

“Rob has an amazing presence,” she explained. “I start my day with him, handling those bus duties. He’s a dear friend who is so positive.”

Assistant Principal Heather Buckman said Leytham is the sort of staff member who allows kids to be seen and heard.

“His room is a place that has the right energy,” she said. “He is a wonderful asset who supports kids.”

Tyler Shannon, principal, said Leytham’s heart leads him well.

“It’s always about the kids,” Shannon said. “He takes the skills and talents he has and connects with the students through music and play. Sure, it’s unconventional, but that allows him to be successful.”

Leytham has been part of Liberty schools for 10 years, and seven at Ridgeview. He has been a drum teacher for 35 years and currently teaches at Palen Music.

“I was at a crossroads in 2012 when my studio closed,” he said. “I had written books, taught dozens and dozens of kids. I needed to step back.”

So for three years, Leytham worked as a paraprofessional in the special education room at Alexander Doniphan Elementary.

In 2015, Leytham had the opportunity to interview for his current role. While some may call it “in-school suspension,” the elementary level is aimed to be less stringent.

“I have music in my room and art. There is role playing. I want to build kids up,” he said. “Many of these students come in with low esteem and they are seeking attention. So I find that positive way to offer positive attention, and that may come with bucket drumming.”

As a matter of course, Leytham went to study at the Kennedy Center. He speaks about conscious disciplining and is penning a children’s book on the subject. He also has certification in neuro-rhythmic trauma therapy.

“My days are full,” he explained. “I start at school around 7 am and get off at 4 pm Then I teach at Palen until 7 pm It’s a rich day that I love.”

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