Tagged “Character Education”

Core Values and Intrinsic Motivation Help Foster Learning

Kellison Elementary School, Fenton, M.O.

A large, diverse elementary school, Kellison uses core values (or “Tigertudes”) to form a common language. According to former principal Tracy Edwards, “The staff at Kellison works really hard to ensure success for all of our students.” Like other Rockwood schools, Kellison has embraced the Caring School Community (CSC) model. Kellison teachers moved away from extrinsic rewards some time ago, citing an emphasis on goal setting and the support of parents that allowed them to do so. “Trinkets” are no longer found at Kellison. Students participate in service projects for the joy of helping others, not to win a pizza party. According to Edwards, “Each year we continue to see [fewer] office referrals for disrespect, and we solidly believe that this is the result of our concentrated character work.” Kellison has a mature, embedded character initiative that has reached a high level of excellence.

Honesty, Kindness, Respect, Responsibility, and Service are developed at this New Jersey School

South Brunswick High School, Monmouth Junction, N.J.


South Brunswick manages to challenge its students, staff, and community members by focusing on moral and performance character. At South Brunswick, Strive for Five serves as the driving philosophy for developing character by focusing on honesty, kindness, respect, responsibility, and service as the five tenets that shape the culture of the school. Principal Tim Matheney and activities coordinator Gina Welsh champion the effort to develop and sustain a culture of character and support their staff and colleagues as they, too, Strive for Five in their daily practice and long-range plans. South Brunswick coaches expect their teams to stand for something bigger than themselves; they encourage each team to identify a cause to champion and to find ways to sponsor that cause throughout the season.

Respectful, Responsible, and Safe Behavior Sends Clear and Consistent Messages

Joseph J. Catena School, Freehold, NJ

Catena School is a model of progress. It is a place where relationships matter, activity abounds, and learning reaches beyond classroom walls and into the outside world. At Catena, every day offers highly engaging opportunities for students to “pass on” compassion and to self-monitor their behavior. Catena is committed to a constant reevaluation of student needs, and staff work toward improving the depth and breadth of their instructional approaches. A common language permeates every space at Catena. The modeling of respectful, responsible, and safe behavior sends clear and consistent messages.

Golden Rule Thrives in Guffey, Mo.

George Guffey Elementary School, Fenton, M.O.


Students recite the “Shine On” character pledge daily, and they strive to be “Guffey’s Gold” by treating one another the way they would want to be treated. Teachers greet their students at the door every day with a smile to welcome them into the classroom and set the tone for the day. According to principal Jackie Waller, “Students at Guffey feel safe and know they are surrounded by caring individuals.” Kristen Pelster, the principal of Ridgewood Middle School (a 2006 NSOC and the school to which the Guffey students proceed upon graduation), comments that she has seen positive changes in the Guffey students who come to her school. She reports that Guffey students are leaders on her campus. Parents and community members declare that the staff is unified in their approach to character.

Parents Are Integral Members of the Learning Community to Ensure the Success of All Students

Geggie Elementary School, Eureka, M.O.


This is a large elementary school that is growing rapidly and facing overcrowding as new housing is built and new families move into the attendance zone. Despite significant population growth over the past five years, disciplinary referrals have declined. Recent positive school-climate goals include the building of students’ sense of competence, especially in girls, and continuing work on the school’s new bully-reporting system. Stakeholders are playing a key part of the development of the school kids, infact according to principal Mary Kleekamp, “Parents are integral members of our learning community and volunteer countless hours to ensure the success of all our students.”

A High-Mobility Middle School in Missouri brings sudents together

Fox Middle School, Arnold, M.O.


The staff at Fox Middle School has become character education leaders frequently called upon to share best practices with other educators. Service learning is seen as a tool to help students learn important skills—and learn to appreciate what they have. As a school with only two grades and a high mobility rate (15 percent), Fox works hard to ease the transition for all new students. Both parents and students write letters to their teachers before the year begins to let them know about their learning needs and interests. In order to meet the dual challenges of having many students whose families are financially stressed and being faced with shrinking school budgets, Fox teachers “go above and beyond,” according to principal Aaron Wilken. “They do anything to make the kids successful. They make do with what we have. Staff members are willing to take risks and [exercise] responsibility.”

Character Education Has Become a Way of Life at this Missouri Elementary School

Crestwood Elementary School, Crestwood, M.O.


Crestwood serves a diverse population, with 15 different languages spoken at home and the highest poverty level in the district. Despite the many challenges of meeting the needs of a diverse population, Crestwood has the highest student achievement among the district’s elementary schools, recently receiving the Missouri Gold Star Award and the National Blue Ribbon Award. Character education, which has been in place at Crestwood since 1989, has evolved into a “way of life,” according to Jim Simpson, the district superintendent. This is a warm and welcoming school with a strong camaraderie among staff, students, and parents. Principal Scott Taylor describes his staff as “wonderful, caring, loving, and great teachers who have high expectations for all students.”

Academic Gains Via a Focus on Character Education

Branson Elementary School West, Branson, M.O.


“We are not a good school, we are a great school!” This is the chant in which principal Mike Dawson leads students, staff, parents, and community members each Monday morning at the all-school character assembly. The chant reminds all stakeholders that the school has a vision for success which includes every student. Dawson attributes his students’ steady academic gains to the systematic implementation of character education. “Once the culture and climate changed, teachers were more trusting and able to plan for student success. Now, we have an aligned curriculum, systematic formative and common assessment data collection, a seamless approach to intervention, and an online curriculum resource available to parents and teachers.” Despite a mobility rate of 35 percent, parents feel welcome in the building, and as proof of community support, a recent school bond passed with 75 percent approval.

No-Blame Approach Promotes Student Growth and Learning

Union Elementary School, Buckhannon, W.V.


Hallways at Union Elementary are covered with evidence of the students’ character-related work: from anti-bullying pledges, to individual student goals, to fundraising efforts to support the family of a student with cancer. More than 3,000 paper chain links—each representing an act of kindness—hang in the hallways; students have a goal of making the chain extend around the entire school. Union has a dedicated staff that does whatever it takes to meet the needs of all students, a number of whom live in severe poverty. Students, parents, and community members contribute to the cleanliness and maintenance of the school and school grounds. Teachers not only model core beliefs and caring for others, but they are also overwhelmingly positive and welcoming, and they work together to solve problems. As both teachers and parents emphasize repeatedly, the belief that “there are no bad students” pervades the Union community.

Dept. of Defense School in Texas Allows Students to Thrive in an Atmosphere of Academic Challenge

Duncan Elementary School, Fort Hood, T.X.

Duncan Elementary School is one of four elementary schools on the Fort Hood military base, the largest military installation in the world. The school provides a safe haven for military children. Parent Gary Tomblin describes the children at the school as “different in that they know life and death,” adding, “[T]heir parents are part of an organization where character is part of who they are. For everyone at Duncan, character is a way of life.” Duncan’s character education program teaches students basic values, and it permeates all aspects of the school. Students determine the direction of club activities. All service-learning projects are now part of the lesson plans that teachers have generated or are part of the planning process of the student-led clubs. Rigorous reading in the content areas, reading intervention programs, and overall high expectations allow students to thrive in an atmosphere of academic challenge.

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