Two Worcester Schools Honored With Character Education Awards

BERLIN – Two Worcester County schools were named 2017 Schools of the Year for Character Education.

This year, both Snow Hill Elementary and Stephen Decatur High schools were two of several Maryland schools to be chosen for a statewide Character Education award.

The Maryland Center for Character Education at Stevenson University hosts the annual awards program to honor schools that institute, develop and continue comprehensive character education initiatives. The goal of the program is to identify best practices in schools that promote character education.

Each school that applies for the award must describe its character education initiative and how it meets at least three of the organization’s 11 principles of effective character education.

Mary Anne Cooper, principal at Snow Hill Elementary, said she, a guidance counselor and a handful of teachers at the school worked together to apply for the award after hearing about it from a behavior specialist in Worcester County.

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“It’s definitely a group effort,” she said. “Everybody is so involved with this.”

This year, Cooper said the school began a new social wellness initiative to increase self-awareness and mindfulness through daily P.O.P. (Pause, Own it, Practice) meetings.

She explained that these morning meetings allow faculty to “check in” with students and discuss things that are on their minds, both good and bad. Cooper added that 2-3 adults are usually in each of the 19 homerooms.

Though Snow Hill Elementary has received recognition for being a PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) school, Cooper said this was the first year they have applied for the Character Education award.

“It was a good reflective activity for us and validated all the hard word we are doing,” she said.

Tom Zimmer, principal at Stephen Decatur High, said the award demonstrates the school’s efforts to shape both the students’ minds and character.

“We are very proud,” he said. “We think we do a lot more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic at school. We value the life lessons we can teach kids and help them along with the ups and downs.”

Zimmer explained that teacher Mary Berquist took charge of completing and submitting the application and added this was the first Character Education award the school received in his years as principal.

In addition to being a PBIS school, Zimmer said Stephen Decatur recognizes and honors star and VIP students that demonstrate good character and re-enforces those values in monthly character lessons.

“It’s important that we realize we have to educate the whole child,” he said.

Both Snow Hill Elementary and Stephen Decatur High schools will be honored alongside other award-winning schools at the 2017 Maryland Center for Character Education at Stevenson University Awards Program on Oct. 5. Each recognized schools will also receive a School of the Year for Character Education banner.

Snow Hill Elementary, Stephen Decatur High and eight other county schools were also honored for achieving PBIS Gold Status at the 2017 PBIS Eastern Shore Regional Summer Institute last week. The other eight schools include Cedar Chapel Special School, Showell and Pocomoke elementary schools, Berlin Intermediate, Snow Hill and Stephen Decatur middle schools, and Pocomoke and Snow Hill high schools. Pocomoke Middle School was also recognized for taking first place in the PBIS Film Festival.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.