Classroom Case Study: Enhancing Relationships

Case Study: Enhancing Relationships

How Implementing Lead ‘Em Up Classroom Enhanced Student-Student and Student-Teacher Relationships at an Illinois High School

Enhance Teacher and Student Relationships


Nathan Emrick had been teaching at a school when he received an offer to teach somewhere else. He Was happy where he was but something was lacking. With the new offer, he added one caveat, there needed to be a Leadership Teaching Component as part of the new position or he would not take it.

Nathan had seen how powerful and impactful leadership development had been with the teams he coached in the past. He wanted that to be part of his new program at the school for all students.

With Holland Neally, another teacher who had created materials for the class, he started teaching the Lead Empower and Develop (LEAD) program to their 9th-grade students at Carterville High School. They started teaching the class in 2020 but by fall classes had been moved to at-home learning because of COVID-19.

Things were going okay in the class, the students were understanding the leadership material but not engaging as much as he hoped. The at-home learning was seriously affecting their ability to teach the LEAD Class. Nathan also noticed that they needed another piece to the program. In order to help the students build the strong relationships LEAD Class discussions required, they needed help. 


Nathan needed something to help engage the students and build relationships. He had heard about Lead ‘Em Up from being a coach and learned Lead ‘Em Up had a Classroom version. Nathan thought this might be the right fit to keep the students in the LEAD program engaged and active while learning from home.

They planned on adding the Lead ‘Em Up Classroom exercises to their current LEAD curriculum. This would help engage the students before diving into the main LEAD curriculum each class period. It was a game-changer from the beginning.

Game changer year 1. Even bigger game changer Year 2!


Given the restraints of at-home learning, Nathan and Holland waited to implement Lead ‘Em Up Classroom once students were back in the classroom. Along with their custom-built materials, they immediately saw a complete change in how the materials and discussions were going.

They utilized the Lead ‘Em Up Classroom exercises at the beginning of each LEAD class. What they found when going through the Lead ‘Em Up materials was that there were exercises in the curriculum that paired with the LEAD Curriculum. This provided them with a way to ease into some of the harder topics the LEAD program covered.

Without Lead ‘Em Up I do not think the rest of our program would be as successful as it is


The LEAD Class involves a lot of discussion on hard subjects and requires a lot of trust between those discussing it. Not just trust between the students, but also between the students and the teachers facilitating the discussions. The materials they developed were good; but once they implemented more of the Lead ‘Em Up Classroom curriculum they started to see a difference in how the students were engaging.

Utilizing the exercises in Lead ‘Em Up Classroom they witnessed students opening up and feeling more comfortable with the topics they were discussing. The exercises helped build a relationship of trust needed between the students that they had previously not been able to attain and was needed for the depth of conversations they were having in the lead class. This depth of trust extended between the students and teacher as well, further building the student-teacher relationships.

The Lead ‘Em Up Classroom materials now cover about 40% of the curriculum they teach in their LEAD Class.

Why are we just doing this with athletes_ All of our students need to be engaged in these sorts of life lessons - White River Valley


Where are they Now?

Lead ‘Em Up Classroom was a game changer in year one and was even more effective in year two when they were able to teach the program in person.

A highlight (and student favorite) of the Lead ‘Em Up program are Green Verifications. Green Verification is a character performance-level students strive to reach through the program. It is celebrated by their peers and approved by their teachers. Implementing Green Verifications in the first year was challenging due to the teaching circumstances, but in the second year, it built a lot of momentum among the students.

About 75% of the 80 9th Grade students taking the LEAD class each semester get verified. This has been so successful in changing the student culture that they are planning to expand the LEAD program to the rest of the student body, and possibly into the community. Lead ‘Em Up Classroom gave them the catalyst to cover the topics of forgiveness, empathy, and integrity with students in a meaningful way. It produced a level of connection with the students they had not previously seen. Lead ‘Em Up Classroom provided the students with the level of comfort needed to dig deep into these topics with their teacher and peers.

75 of Freshmen Become Green Verified


Implementing Lead ‘Em Up Classroom in the LEAD program at Carterville High School has proven to be a transformative experience for teachers and students. Despite the challenges posed by the sudden shift to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nathan Emrick and Holland Neally adapted and utilized the Lead ‘Em Up Classroom exercises to engage and connect with their students more effectively. By incorporating these exercises at the beginning of each LEAD class, they discovered that the materials provided a seamless transition into the more challenging topics covered in the LEAD curriculum.

As the students returned to the classroom, the impact of teaching leadership and using Lead ‘Em Up face-to-face became even more apparent. The discussions on complex subjects required a high level of trust between students and teachers, and the implementation of Lead ‘Em Up Classroom significantly enhanced this trust and engagement among the students. The integration of Green Verifications, where students strive to reach a character performance level celebrated by their peers and approved by their teachers, further motivated the students and generated momentum within the program.

The success achieved in the LEAD program at Carterville High School has laid the foundation for future expansion. With approximately 75% of the 9th-grade students successfully completing the LEAD class and receiving Green Verification, the school is planning to extend the program to the entire student body and potentially even into the wider community. Lead ‘Em Up Classroom has provided a catalyst for meaningful discussions on forgiveness, empathy, and integrity, fostering a level of connection and comfort that was previously unmatched. This case study demonstrates the profound positive impact that leadership education, supported by effective teaching materials such as Lead ‘Em Up, can have on students’ personal growth and the overall culture of a school.

Nathan’s success in his LEAD class has earned him national recognition. He was invited to speak at the SHAPE America Conference in Seattle, WA to share about the rollout of Lead ‘Em Up at Carterville High School.

SHAPE America Logo

It’s not just Carterville!

Lead ‘Em Up Classroom is transforming student bodies across the country.

I love the positive energy Lead ‘Em Up has brought to our student body. Square - White River Valley
I have seen firsthand how Lead 'Em Up has transformed our students. It has helped them learn the power of encouragement, setting goals and holding each other accountable.

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Nathan is currently using the Single Teacher 35 Program at Carterville.

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Green Verification is part of the Green Team Exercise and the foundation of the Lead ‘Em Up Curriculum. It is just one part of a seven-part framework that is then accompanied by teaching concepts and other exercises and just one part of a 40+ Exercise Curriculum. Fill out the form to get access to one of the exercises you can start using right now.

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