The character education program at CES program is called “Champions of Character.”
Counselor Sandra Courington said the Walker County School System has implemented a statewide program called “Character@Heart.” Educators at each school are free to teach a list of 25 common character traits in ways that are unique to their environment.
“We chose ‘Champions of Character’ because being a champion has always been very important in our community. We want the kids to see that being a champion plays out best in everyday life,” Courington said.
Over the summer, Principal Dianne Williams enlisted the help of a local artist to paint a series of murals around the school that associate character traits with superheroes.
While every student in the school is acknowledged as a champion, a select few receive recognition each month as superheroes of character.
Courington worked the theme into one of her recent lessons on the power of words.
“I told them, ‘Your superhero power is not in your strength. It’s in your words. You can say something kind to someone and change everything,’” she said.
Students receive at least 10 minutes of character education per day as mandated by the Alabama Legislature in 1995, and Courington incorporates character into her weekly lessons with each grade level.
Students also have several opportunities throughout the year to put what they have learned about character into action.
For example, the school participated in the Grow Your Heart program in December to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Children who performed three kind deeds were given a red heart to add to one of two Grinches stationed at the front of the school. Kindergarten and first graders competed with second and third graders to see who could make the Grinch’s heart grow the most.
In Februrary, CES sponsored an activity based on the children’s book “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?”
Students were encouraged to fill another person’s bucket with various acts of kindness, which were visually represented by packing peanuts being placed into cups as each act was completed.
The students also collected items throughout the month for the UAB Center for Palliative and Supportive Care.
Last year, the school hosted a penny drop for a child with spina bifida who needed a cranial banding.
Williams said largely because of Cordova’s character education program, the elementary school has not had a child in alternative school for the past three years.
“We try to head it off before it gets that bad because you can see when a child is headed down the wrong path by making poor decisions,” she said.
CES is not alone in its emphasis on character.
Bankhead Middle School is in its first year of implementing a “Leader In Me” program, and the Cordova City Council voted in October to become a city of character.
The resolution encouraged local leaders to “educate and promote character development...for the purpose of creating and preserving a community that is known for valuing the worth and contribution of each person to the effective operation of a family, system or organization.”
Courington said she believes the Champions of Character program is working so well at CES because every faculty member recognizes that character is a key part of every child’s education. “Their are so many hidden messages that adults give kids. As the faculty, we realize that we are the example for their character,” she said.
Among the future goals at CES is applying to be a State School of Character.
Vestavia Hills Elementary School became the first school in Alabama to receive that distinction in January 2013.