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These students have 'Character'

October 21, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Grades aren't all that matter in many Tri-State area schools.

Acts that show good character - treating fellow students with kindness and respect; helping teachers pass out assignments; following directions without being asked twice; turning in homework on time - earn recognition and rewards for elementary and middle school students in Washington County, Franklin County, Pa., and Jefferson County, W.Va., teachers and administrators in all three states said.

Oct. 20-26 is national Character Counts! week.

Character Counts! is a character education strategy that centers on students' understanding of six "pillars" of character: Trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

The Washington County Board of Education encourages but doesn't mandate character education instruction, said Martha Roulette, director of student services. She said many county schools now use Character Counts! as a framework for designing behavioral incentive programs.

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At Sharpsburg Elementary School, "Sharp Students" are honored each month for exemplifying Character Counts! traits, Principal Karen Stroup said.

"It think it helps teach our students to be leaders in our school. We always learn when we help others," Stroup said.

Students who demonstrate trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship are given the opportunity to help with such jobs as morning announcements, raising and lowering the flags, and delivering classroom mail, they said.

Sharp Student Thomas Burgan, 10, said the "special jobs" motivated him to be a better person in school.

"I think most children want to be Sharp Students. We find it's a real motivator for good behavior," teacher Cindy Weaver said.

Students who demonstrate good character traits at Boonsboro Middle School each month are presented certificates during televised morning announcements, and have their photographs displayed at the school's entrance, Principal Lynn Miller said.

Students "caught" demonstrating the pillars of Character Counts! at Pangborn Elementary School in Hagerstown are eligible for monthly prize drawings, Principal Barbara Stouffer said.

And Pangborn's CUBS program - Children Using Behavior Successfully - features such special activities as movies and karate demonstrations for students who make it through the month without breaking more than two school rules, Stouffer said.

At Springfield Middle School in Williamsport, good behavior is rewarded with "River Rat tickets," which can be redeemed for such prizes as free ice cream and bookstore items, Assistant Principal David Ambrose said.

Students can also save and drop their tickets in a bin for bi-weekly drawings for big-ticket items from Valley Mall, Ambrose said. Held every other Friday, the drawings are broadcast on the school's closed-circuit TV system, he said.

"I think it's made a pretty significant impact on the kids," Ambrose said.

Students at Greencastle-Antrim Elementary School in Franklin County earn "good eggs" for good behavior, and students at Greencastle-Antrim Primary School earn "dyno bucks" for demonstrating Character Counts! traits, said Allison Feick, elementary school guidance counselor.

"The kids are very motivated to earn those eggs," with which they can "buy" such items as pencils, gadgets and books at the school store, Feick said.

Students who display strong character traits at Blue Ridge Elementary School in Jefferson County earn Character Counts! ribbons, pencils, and the "treasure cards" that serve as invitations to monthly pizza parties, Principal Susan Zigler said.

"They know the treasure card is very valuable," she said.

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