The Pennsbury School District recently announced that six of its schools achieved the 2021 State School of Character distinction, bestowed by Character.org, a national advocate for character education based in Washington, D.C.
The Pennsbury schools include Eleanor Roosevelt, Makefield, Manor, Penn Valley, and Walt Disney elementary schools, in addition to Pennsbury High School.
All of the schools listed were designated State Schools of Character in 2016 and were re-designated with the same honor this year after a rigorous re-application process.
The schools will all now be considered by Character.org for the National School of Character distinction.
Note: Pennsbury’s remaining schools are on different five-year timetables for renewal as State and National Schools of Character.
*ELEANOR ROOSEVELT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – The mission of Eleanor Roosevelt (ER) is to develop a culture where everyone is “Respectful, Responsible and Safe” so that each student can develop and grow to their fullest potential as a learner and a contributing member of the ER community. “We have combined our efforts through our work with character education and school-wide Positive Behavior Supports and Interventions to create our own We Are ER Program,” said Principal Lisa Follman. “Our three core values are embedded into explicitly-taught lessons and the core values have become common language at ER.” ER’s PTO helped to design posters that remind the students of the school’s core values. These posters let students know what the core values “look like” and “sound like” throughout the school. The Core Character Team, led by the creativity of teachers, Jason Miller and Kimberly Sendlock, in conjunction with the talented students on the ER Character Council, have created enjoyable videos and lesson plans to demonstrate school values and expected behaviors at ER. “Within our program, students are awarded with Golden Tickets when demonstrating our three core values,” said Ms. Follman. School personnel created a special video broadcast on Fridays for the morning announcements, in which Ms. Follman and teacher, Tyree Annick-Hyle, honor the Golden Ticket winners from the previous week, followed by a special character building segment by the school’s very own “Teacher Man.” “Our core values are such a major part of so much of what we do at ER,” said Ms. Follman. “We start each day with the morning announcements and then we say the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the We Are ER Pledge. We take part in classroom lessons and all-school character assemblies. Many of our intermediate students take part in a character leadership team known as the Character Council, made up of ambassadors of character at ER. These students help newer students join the ER community safely, responsibly, and respectfully. At ER, teachers and parents support various clubs that are centered on our three core values, such as the Diversity Club, Multi-Cultural Youth Leadership Club, and the ER Runners’ Club. Teachers work with the children on service projects as students learn to give back to the community, such as Caring for Friends, Caring Kids Cards (for our Military), and an Art Supply Collection for Kids at CHOP. Our students also take part in an annual walk at ER for children being treated at CHOP through Kids Walking for Kids. For over a decade, the ER PTO has supported each classroom in taking part in an annual Valentine’s Day Service Project where our students build care packages for the elderly and homebound. More recently, the fifth graders have been excited to take part in the annual MLK Day of Service in Pennsbury. All of these experiences have been shaped by our core values and our commitment to We are ER.”
*MAKEFIELD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – Instilling character in Makefield Elementary students has been a consistent priority of this school community. Building the character of Makefield students is a mission of every teacher and staff member of Makefield. Character development is woven into daily lessons across subject areas and emphasized through some of the school’s special events. In 2016, Makefield was awarded the designation of State School of Character and National School of Character. Since then, the program has continued to grow as they focused on providing character development instruction and also recognizing students who are making growth and demonstrating positive behaviors. Makefield’s core values of Giving to Others, Respect and Responsibility, Owning Your Behavior, and Work to build your character (GROW) are deeply embedded into the very fabric of the school and its culture. “Through our GROWS 200 Club, students are recognized for their achievements in these aspects of character,” said Principal Donna McCormick-Miller. “The wonderful outcome of including these virtues in our daily practice is that our students no longer see it as work. These virtues have become part of who they are, part of their character. Makefield also supports the social-emotional development of our students through mindfulness programming via Project CARES: Creating Aware, Resilient, and Empathetic Students and the Second Step Curriculum during our SEL time in all grade levels. We also incorporate into our daily announcements our weekly mindful message and our pledge of respect. Our involved and supportive parent community and our committed Makefield faculty and staff have enabled all stakeholders to strengthen our connection between home, school and community.” Over the past five years, in addition to the focus on character development, the Makefield students, staff and community have emphasized a call to moral action through many events. “In the fall of 2018, we hosted award-winning author, Andrea Davis Pinkney,” said Ms. McCormick-Miller. “Through her books, she taught our students about the actions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the dramatic impact his courage had on our society. We hosted an ‘I AM’ rally like Dr. King, and our students had an opportunity to stand up and shout something about themselves that makes them proud. We also received the designation of a No Place for Hate School that same year. Other activities supporting engagement in moral action were: our participation in Mini-THON in February 2020, our YesYouCan! 5K in October 2019, which was a District-wide event to “build confidence and build community” as well as support Family Promise of Lower Bucks. Our Walk to Remember, MLK Day of Service, Salvation Army Kettle Drive, our Thanksgiving food drives and Holiday gift giving are all ways that our students demonstrate their concern for not only their personal well-being but the well-being of those in need in the local community. We are honored to once again be recognized as a State School of Character in 2021.”
*PENNSBURY HIGH SCHOOL – “Pennsbury High School is extremely honored to be recognized as a State School of Character,” reports PHS Assistant Principal, Ryan Regensburg. Since earning a National School of Character designation in 2016, the school has continued to promote and expand the character education program, specifically highlighting the 11 Principles. “We have further developed our PEACE Challenge to include social-emotional development,” said Mr. Regensburg. “We have made the PEACE Challenge a focal point to model and teach desirable behaviors as outlined by CASEL’s competencies, and continue to find new ways to implement the 11 Principles during the school day as well as within the community. Not only do we focus on the core values of the PEACE Challenge, but we have also aligned those values to our social-emotional learning goals by implementing ‘The Nest’ into our weekly routines. Prior to March 2020, teachers implemented a 15-minute Nest activity that encourages critical thinking and discussion among students.” Within the context of the discussion, students listen actively to the comments of others, think critically for themselves, and articulate their own thoughts and responses to the thoughts of others, while building relationships within the classroom. “This has allowed our students to have a voice and to take ownership of their own character development,” said Mr. Regensburg. “In the remote learning environment, staff and students collaborated with the Pennsbury Channel to ‘Build the Virtual Nest’ through morning announcements. Segments were designed for our PHS community to stay connected. As for this school year, clubs and other co-curricular programs such as the Air Force Junior ROTC, Student Council, Interact, Salt and Light, Operation Smile, Operation Warm, and National Honor Society have found unique ways to transfer the 11 Principles into our community service activities. As we reflect on our character journey, we continue to evolve and integrate social-emotional competencies with the 11 Principles to allow character development to come to life in our high school community.”
To learn more about the schools chosen and those in the midst of their five-year certification as State Schools of Character, visit Character.org.
The 2021 National Schools of Character will be announced in May 2021 and honored at a national forum next fall in Washington D.C.