A newsmaker you should know: Norwin superintendent helps launch character education

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The Norwin School District is launching a districtwide character education initiative after more than a year of preparation.

Mary Anne Hazer, Norwin assistant superintendent of elementary education, said about 30 teachers and administrators from every building and grade level in the district met to decide how to implement the program.

Superintendent William Kerr brought in Henry Huffman, PhD., a founder of the Character Education Institute at California University of Pennsylvania, to work with the committee.

Seven character traits will be taught: respect, responsibility, honesty, compassion, justice or fairness, courage, and perseverance.

"I think our intent is to explicitly teach the character traits we desire to kids, to show we want this to be part of our [school] culture," Ms. Hazer said.

She and Natalie McCracken, principal of Sunset Valley Elementary School, are in charge of the committee.

Ms. Hazer said the initiative will formalize informal character education that was already going on in the Norwin School District and make it districtwide.

Clubs that emphasize character building and good citizenship, such as the High 5 Club at Hillcrest Intermediate School and similar clubs in the elementary schools, will continue their programs but be renamed The Noble Knights.

Mrs. Hazer said the theme of the initiative will be, "A knight will always do what is good and right."

The program will begin in kindergarten through grade 6 during the 2012-13 school year, and will be expanded into grades 7 through 12 the following year.

Ms. McCracken said the committee will concentrate on teaching one positive character trait each month.

Committee members have been working to include the positive traits emphasized in the initiative into all areas of the curriculum.

For example, in social studies, the actions of a person in history who showed great courage could be highlighted. And, Ms. Hazer said, responsibility could easily be inserted into health lessons about safety and healthy eating, while perseverance could be taught in gym class.

Ms. Hazer said character education is a way of backing up parents, so that "what the parents do at home is the same thing we experience at school."

As part of the initiative, Ms. Hazer and Mrs. McCracken also hope to strengthen relationships among school staff members, parents and the greater Norwin community.

The district is made up of North Huntingdon, Irwin and North Irwin.

In a press release, Mr. Kerr said "it sometimes takes resilience for young people to strive for the qualities of good character in the face of immense pressure and sometimes insurmountable obstacles."

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Anne Cloonan, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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