Tried in the Fire of the Pandemic-These School Children Succeed with Character

Promising Practices School Awards for 2021 Announced 

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Education (SOE), in partnership with the Wisconsin Character Education Partnership (WCEP), is pleased to announce the Wisconsin schools recognized in 2020 for their innovative, successful initiatives integrating character education into the curriculum. SOE understands the value of WCEP’s mission to promote the intentional, proactive effort by public and private K-12 schools and school districts to instill in all Wisconsin’s students, core universal ethical values such as integrity, honesty, fairness, responsibility and respect for themselves and for others through character education.  

In 2020, these young students have had their character enhanced through trial and adversity in a singular way. They withstood the test of a pandemic and learned from it. No doubt they will become remarkable adults. We are proud of them.  

2021 Wisconsin Promising Practices Character Education Recognition 

During the 2020-2021 school year, schools in Wisconsin found themselves delivering education in a variety of modalities: some were meeting in the traditional in-person setting, some were all virtual (reliance on technology to deliver education) and some were a blend of the two (hybrid).  The Promising Practice awards this year tried to capture the flexibility and adaptability of schools in their approach/practices in character education to reach all of their students in this unprecedented year.  There are five schools that are being recognized for a Promising Practice award that serve students in grades ranging from K-12.  In addition, we have a Promising Practice being awarded to an Institute at the college level for its work promoting character education.  

SOE is privileged to congratulate the following schools for their achievement in Promising Practices category. 

St. John’s Northwestern Academies (Delafield) – “Leadership from the Inside Out” 

This private academy has worked to blend an existing leadership curriculum based on military academy focus with one that encompassed a broader perspective as they expanded their school.  The newly developed four-year curriculum focuses on a sequence of character-based leadership development.  It begins with developing/defining personal core values and supporting school core values.  The curriculum then follows a continuum to a focus on moral imperatives for leadership, and a capstone leadership project for seniors.  The school integrates this curriculum and character expectation in all areas of academy life- classroom, dorms and in extracurricular activities.  The intentional development and teaching of character, and the transferability to other high schools is why this is a best/promising practice.  

Carmen Schools of Science and Technology-Carmen South Middle School Campus (Milwaukee)-“Circles”  

“Circles” is a practice this school has committed to weekly during the advisory time and continued during the pandemic.  This practice, adapted from another institution, seeks to invite students and staff to be transparent and in relationships with each other.  Circle time is for listening, learning, respecting individuals and understanding their stories.  Students work on earning badges that help them understand who they are with a focus on identity and diversity.  There is involvement from the families in special sharing at Circle time. Professional development for staff to run the circles is rich and on-going.  Creating a caring community and nurturing respect is evident in this practice. 

Greenwood Elementary School (School District of River Falls) – “Podcasting “Some Good News” at Greenwood Elementary  

Greenwood Elementary had a character podcast project designed to empower students in 4th and 5th grade to creatively discuss current events and opinions related to their character education learning.  The podcast had to be discontinued during the pandemic; however, students approached their facilitator with a desire to continue the Good News by creating a YouTube series.  Students could do this from home and submit to the school to share.  Their focus was on finding good news stories to brighten peoples’ days and showcase leaders of character in the news- reaching the school community and beyond. This practice is strong in promoting student voice and choice and is recognized as an adaptive adjustment to continue character education activities.  

Walker Elementary (West Allis West Milwaukee School District) – “Virtual All School Assemblies” 

All school assemblies were a vital part of this school’s character education effort and were not possible this year.   In response to the pandemic, the school team worked to adapt and provide a Virtual All School Assembly that maintains the integrity of their commitment to building community, sharing character skills and continued focus on student voice. In these bi-weekly assemblies, classroom teams provide content and sharing on character skills for the whole school community- whether in person or attending virtually.  Parents are partners as they support their students from home, with feedback that the virtual assemblies have been a high point for their children.  Building community while developing character has made this a strong adaptive practice during the pandemic.  

College Park Elementary (Greendale School District) – “We Are Stronger Together” 

This practice, as the name implies, is an effort to build connections and relationships between the students who were attending in person and those who were attending virtually.  The commitment to have all students feel welcome, accepted as a part of the whole school community and to continue to build relationships between students is at the core of this practice.  Intentional efforts were made to modify existing activities, especially ones that were character focused, to be done using technology to create and extend opportunities for shared learning experiences.  This has been positive for students in all settings and has also engaged more parents in the character education efforts.  This practice is a strong adaptation that enhanced relationships, community and parent involvement during the pandemic. 

Alverno College (Milwaukee) – “Thea Bowman Institute: Racial Identity Development Seminar” 

Character education initiatives can/should be extended beyond the K-12 setting.  As such, this college, through their Thea Bowman Institute, developed a strong character education initiative.  In response to racial justice concerns and wanting to support Black students at Alverno (especially new students), a core group of Black Alverno employees developed a leadership/mentoring program.  This mentoring program provides students with a dedicated advisor, alumna mentor, exclusive networking opportunities and guaranteed internship opportunities. This effort builds trust and relationships between student and faculty, providing support to further a safe space for learning and to promote successful outcomes.  This practice is an excellent example of shared leadership, caring community, and opportunity for moral action.  It is a practice that can be adapted at a high school level or other post-secondary institutions/organizations. 

For additional information to contact school leaders, please contact:  Pamela Woodard at [email protected] 

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