District praises character education after its first year

Saturday, March 30, 2002

STRAFFORD, Mo. -- Teachers and staff in the Strafford school district are praising a program that aims to teach students positive character traits.

Character education is now a part of every school day in the Southwest Missouri school district. Lesson plans for the district's 1,025 students include topics such as respect, responsibility and citizenship.

"It's no longer a program, character education is integrated into our whole school, it's a part of every day," middle school teacher Mike Bradley said at a gathering of school leaders last week. "It truly amazes me what this type of emphasis has done in just one year."

Elementary counselor Donna Redfern agreed.

"When we began character education, 56 percent of our fourth-graders didn't understand what it was," Redfern said. "Now, all our 500 students know that character education is simply doing the right thing, even when no one else is watching."

Last fall, the Strafford school board adopted a mission statement that says the program will "provide learning opportunities and role models, which will encourage the development of positive character traits needed by students. These traits, when presented through a partnership of home, school and community, will develop responsible lifelong learners who will be successful citizens in a competitive global community."

'The heart and soul'

The program now has a new face and name at the high school. Art student Josh Carter created "Character ED," a comic strip character that appears in the hall and in the school newspaper, the Strafford Broadcast.

"Josh is an outstanding student who exhibits all the character traits of the program," said his teacher, Ron Reese. "He is an example of what our students can do when they believe in something and when they choose to use their talents in a positive way."

Program coordinator Susan Sanders said character education is a process toward which the children are naturally gravitating.

"Character is at the heart and soul of all the students, they just have to be taught how to use the traits," she said. "You can walk into the classrooms here at Strafford and see character education at work."

Last week's meeting was also called to plan for next school year. Teachers and staff in attendance chose to add pride to the seven character traits now emphasized in the program: respect, responsibility, citizenship, compassion, honesty, perseverance and self-discipline.

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