Teachers are 'unsung heroes'

March 29, 1999

NMS teachersBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Northern Middle School teachers won a national award this month for a program that promotes peace in the school and surrounding community.

A company that provides retirement plans to teachers established the awards program, "Education's Unsung Heroes," to recognize educators for classroom innovation and excellence.

A team of 12 educators from the school won the $2,000 prize for an eighth-grade student-learning service project called Making Connections to Community.


The project included a week of activities incorporating music, writing and art. It culminated with a pep rally on Oct. 9, 1998, and the school's second annual Peace Walk/Run on Oct. 10.

Physical education teacher Mary Ellen Butts coordinated team members for the project.

"We are taking a nationally recognized problem of school and community violence and trying to focus attention on the need for respect, peace and good citizenship," she wrote in the award application.

Media attention to school violence in places such as Paducah, Ky., and Jonesboro, Ark., caused a heightened concern, Butts said. The program was a response to that national phenomenon, she said.

Part of the program involved working on conflict resolution in health class, teaching students to solve problems peacefully. In band and orchestra, students learned musical scores with themes of peace.

In general music classes, students learned about Martin Luther King and wrote new lyrics to the song, "We Shall Overcome." In art classes, students created T-shirt designs, posters and banners for the Peace Walk/Run.

In language arts classes, students wrote about the importance of peace. Several students like Lauren Peddicord composed poems. "Peace is when there is no war. People don't fight each other anymore," she wrote.

During the Peace Walk/Run, 300 people walked or ran four miles through the school's community down Northern Avenue, Oak Hill Avenue, Potomac Street, across Bethel Street, up Jonathan Street to The Terrace and back to Northern Avenue.

The event was meant to bring the school's community together, Butts said.

"Our main interest was to raise the level of awareness and make students advocates for peace," she said. "You can't always change people's opinions, but at least we made them aware."

The $2,000 award will help fund next year's celebration, Butts said. In the past, the school depended on community donations.

Northern Life Insurance Co. of Seattle, Wash., and its parent corporation, Reliastar, have awarded $880,000 to 360 schools across the United States since creating the Unsung Heroes awards program four years ago, according to the company.

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