Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Learning Stresses Character
By Hailey Heinz
Journal Staff Writer
At Grant Middle School, hallways are named for traits like responsibility and trustworthiness. Sunset View Elementary is a magnet for character education, and Ernie Pyle Middle School has a lot of character emphasis, said Carole Smith, the coordinator for Schools and Community Partnerships at Albuquerque Public Schools.
But this emphasis looks different at every school.
Since Character Counts! was launched in 1993, the once-streamlined program has become more school-specific, with different sites emphasizing the parts of the program that fit their needs.
The program aims to help students build their character as well as their intellect, and was created with input from then-Sen. Pete Domenici and the teachers' union president at the time, Don Whatley. The program centers on six "pillars" of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
Each has a corresponding color of the rainbow that is used in wall displays. One APS school even has color-coded dots on all its library books to indicate if the book deals with one of the pillars.
Until three years ago, the program was funded by a stream of federal grants that paid for training teachers and coaches. Coaches are trained in a specific branch of the program called "Pursuing Victory with Honor," which emphasizes respect, fairness and responsibility among student athletes and parents.
With the grant money dried up, Smith said, coaches and teachers are now supposed to peer-train people who are new to the district.
After the last grant ended three years ago, Smith said, APS officials tried to make the program self-sustaining. And although it is not as visible and centralized as it once was, she said the program continues in different ways all over Albuquerque.
High school students use it in their peer mediations, Smith said, or might talk about citizenship in government classes. She said it is also a good fit for language arts at all ages.
"You can talk about, 'how did this character show respect?' " she said.