Teachers and administrators from Blevins Elementary
and Lafayette High
will travel to Washington, D.C., next week and participate in the annual Character.org National Forum.
Blevins and Lafayette were both named 2019 National Schools of Character (NSOC) in the spring by Character.org for their efforts in promoting and implementing character education initiatives. Blevins earned this distinction in 2014 and was awarded it for a second time this year, the first year in which it was eligible to re-apply. Lafayette earned NSOC status for the first time this year and is the first Rockwood School District high school to do so.
The two Rockwood schools will be honored at a luncheon Thursday, Oct. 24, along with 87 other NSOC schools and three districts. The conference runs through Sunday, Oct. 27, and includes meetings, seminars and breakout sessions that reinforce the 11 guiding principles of character education espoused by Character.org.
"We've worked really hard, so I'm excited to be acknowledged for our character journey," Lafayette Principal Dr. Karen Calcaterra said. "I'm excited to attend the conference to see what more we can do and what other ideas we can bring back to enhance some of the things we're already doing."
Calcaterra and assistant principals Colleen Fields and Dr. Mandy Lewis will attend from Lafayette, while kindergarten teacher Hannah Bergmann, fourth-grade teacher Jeff Engle and second-grade teacher Sarah Klinkhardt will attend from Blevins.
Bergmann, Engle and Klinkhardt are leaders of the character initiative at Blevins. While Bergmann and Klinkhardt are first-time conference attendees, Engle went five years ago and said it's been exciting to watch the progress the school has made since.
Engle says Blevins has made considerable strides with service learning projects and initiatives such as a mentorship program in which every third- through fifth-grader has a dedicated staff member to serve as mentor. Principal Sharon Jackson said students also have significant input in the school's character education efforts.
"This honor validates what we're doing and says that it's effective when it comes to students and their development," Engle said. "We're heading in the right direction to continuing to develop kids socially, academically and emotionally."
Other schools from the region who are interested in submitting for NSOC consideration have paid site visits to Blevins and Lafayette in recent weeks to see how the schools have implemented their programs.
Calcaterra said she is proud of the advances her school has made in areas such as student leadership, trauma-informed care training for staff members and being more intentional about their "champions" program, in which each student picks a specific staff member who they can turn to as a trusted adult at the school.
"I truly am honored that we're being recognized. Having said that, we would want to do this work anyway," Calcaterra said. "I would want our students to develop as strong leaders. I would want our coaches, teachers, administrators, leadership groups and parent groups to talk about good character and what it means to be a member of the community."