The district, along with four township schools, received six Promising Practice awards by Character.org for 2020, bringing the Old Bridge Public School District’s total to 44 education programs, demonstrating effective strategies that develop good character in youngsters.
Programs submitted by Cooper Elementary School, Southwood Elementary School, Jonas Salk Middle School, Old Bridge High School, and the District will be honored by Character.org at its National Forum in Washington, D.C., which be held March 3-5, 2021.
“Congratulations to all who participate in these initiatives, sharing these practices that have a positive impact on student learning and success, which not only benefit our schools, but schools globally when they too can institute similar programs and initiatives,” said Schools Superintendent David Cittadino.
Arthur Schwartz, president of Character.org, said the organization is proud to recognize the schools and organizations that have developed and implemented a Promising Practice.
“Each of these programs and initiatives have demonstrated significant impact and strongly align with the principles that help schools and organizations cultivate a culture of character,” he said.
This year’s character development practices and initiatives included peer mentoring, service-learning, and conflict resolution approaches. Many of the Promising Practices also involved parents and the local community.
The winning Promising Practices are:
· Cooper Elementary School, Coop's Cooking Club, submitted by Cathy Gramata
The club was created by our physical education teacher who wanted to expand the health nutrition curriculum by incorporating his knowledge of the subject matter and his love of cooking. Knowing how many students do not have access to regular meals, and in many cases, fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats/fish, this was an excellent way to expand the paper and pencil explanation and create a hands-on experience. This teacher plans menus with the students during the first meeting and then shops for the ingredients weekly. The club members attend the 7:45 a.m. program, where they discuss everything from proper food handling, the various terms of
preparing the food (i.e. dicing, julienne, mashing), and proper ways to balance spices. Whatever is prepared that morning is shared with staff and a comment card is given for feedback from the staff to the students.
· Salk Middle School, Coming Together for Comrades, submitted by Brenda Livoti
In an effort to make a connection between members of the armed services and students, a veteran from an organization called "Unbroken Warriors," Michael Dowens, came to the school with his service dog to explain the sacrifices that soldiers and their families make each and every day to protect their freedoms. To make an even bigger connection between our middle school and our district, we created an event to raise money for his organization at our annual Giving Back Jubilee.
· Jonas Salk Middle School, 9/11 - Good Deed Challenge, submitted by Katie Whitman and Peggy Reilly
The sixth grade teachers at Jonas Salk Middle School have refocused the tragedy of 9/11 to the outreach of humanity that occurred on that day. Students learned about the citizens of Gander, Newfoundland who opened their homes and their hearts to the 6,600 ‘plane people’ who found themselves stranded in this small town when all aircraft were forced to land. Students learned how these people opened their homes, restaurants, stores, and hearts. Referencing the Broadway hit, “Come from Away” and Tom Brokaw’s “Operation Yellow Ribbon” students were assigned the “9/11 Good Deed Challenge”. They are given about a month to complete a non-monetary good deed and present to their classmates via pictures, videos, and posters.
· Old Bridge High School, OBHS Guiding Knights , submitted by Sally Fazio
OBHS students volunteer to be “guiding knights” to their peers, and middle and elementary school students to provide homework support and academic assistance. They offer homework help during lunches at the high school and after school help at the middle and elementary schools.
· Southwood Elementary School, Chalk the Walk, submitted by Karen Foley
In an effort to spread positivity during the Week of Respect, Southwood School organized a Chalk the Walk. Students worked collaboratively to write positive and kind messages on the front blacktop and walkways of the school building. The students spread joy and inspiration to their peers with the magical power of sidewalk chalk. Southwood’s PTA donated the chalk and students went outside to write or draw creative messages from their hearts. In some instances, our ‘big kids’ were able to help out the ‘little ones’ to make combined creations. The students were inspired when they went home and wanted to spread more positivity around the neighborhood. They chalked their driveways with positive messages as well.
· District: OBHS and Carl Sandburg Middle School, Knight T.I.M.E. Mentor Program, submitted by Holly Fiorentino and Angela Ziemba
Adults often have conversations about students but fail to include them in this dialogue. The discussions can range from disciplinary strategies to classroom instructional practices. This best practice creates a platform where student voice enlightens educators to the positive and negative experiences they have had throughout their educational journey. Through professional development time, OBHS students met with various staff and offered their perspective through guided Q & A sessions on topics related to memorable moments, positive interactions, approaches, personal preferences, and technology. Teachers gained new insight into the way students receive their instruction, view the world, the connections that are most memorable, and how Generation Z values their digital profile. This information allowed staff to reflect on the practices they may have assumed were effective, and reassess new strategies moving forward. As a district, we value student voice; however, this best practice allows student voice to serve as a catalyst for change moving forward as we enter a new decade in education focused on meeting the needs of the whole child.
Each Promising Practice must be tied to one or more of Character.org’s 11 Principles of Character Education. Character.org is a national, nonprofit group based in Washington, DC that works with schools and districts to educate, inspire, and empower young people to be ethical and engaged citizens. The organization is led by educators who are dedicated to teaching youth how to be both smart and good through the advancement of quality character development in all schools.
Character.org sponsors the annual program to showcase innovative best practices that demonstrate impacts across the nation and abroad. Charater.org encourages educators with similar needs to learn from and even replicate these initiatives.
Assistant Superintendent Kathleen Hoeker commended staff and students for their Best Practices awards.
Hoeker was principal at Madison Park Elementary School when it earned recognition as a School of Character; she also is a former principal of the Alan B. Shepard Elementary School, Old Bridge School District’s first National School of Character, and she has led teams to bring character education to the district’s 11 elementary schools, two middle schools, and the high school.
“Receiving this national recognition is an honor achieved by a team effort across the district,” said Hoeker. “Our first school of character was recognized in 2010. It is a true testament to the desire of the community to put social emotional learning in the forefront and to teach and expect kindness and tolerance, to which we have sustained for 10 years. We continue to overcome challenges and rise above adversity because of the foundation we have established which started with this process and continues through the work of our staff, students, parents and our community.”