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This Month's Best Practice

Each Month the Maryland Center for Character Education at Stevenson University (MCCE@SU) picks one of the Best Practices from a Character Education award winning school to share with you.


This month's Best Practices is from an award winning school from 2015-2016.




School: Deal Island Elementary School

Address: 23275 Lola Wheatley Road, Deal Island, MD 21821
Principal: Ted Gibson
E-Mail: tgibson@somerset.k12.md.us

Phone: 410-784-2449


Character Ed. Contact: Michelle Horner

E-Mail: mhorner@somerset.k12.md.us


Title of Best Practice: Empathy for Others – Great Lemonade War


Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9



To develop empathetic and compassionate students who understand the importance of helping others, regardless of location.


This year we, at Deal Island, wanted to stress the importance of helping others. A simple idea flourished into a whole-school effort to show empathy and compassion for others. Mrs. Kolby Noble, our 4th and 5th grade Math and Science teacher, was looking for a novel to integrate into her Math curriculum. She found The Great Lemonade War by Mrs. Jacqueline Davies.

Mrs. Noble and her students entered the Great Lemonade War, a friendly competition among schools across the nation. The idea is to raise money towards Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, fighting childhood cancer. The class began organizing and facilitating fundraising efforts towards the competition. It wasn’t long before the entire school jumped on-board.

As a school, we shared the importance of empathy and compassion on the morning announcements, with the students creating “commercials” for the school. We discussed these values and the importance of helping others during the Character Education special. The fundraising efforts of one class grew to an entire school. Each class wanted to pitch in in some way to help Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

Because of the personal connection between the values and the work we were doing at school, many of the students organized and ran lemonade stands at home on the weekend or donated money they made at yard-sales towards our efforts.

As a school, we discussed the importance of empathy for others. By the end of the competition, a school of 106 students raised $4,000 towards Alex’s Lemonade Stand. We placed 1st in the nation and had the honor of being visited by Mr. Jay Scott, co-founder of Alex’ s Lemonade Stand Organization and Mrs. Jacqueline Davies, author of The Great Lemonade War in the spring.


Principle 1:
Deal Island Elementary School promotes good character through the framework of the Chick-fil-A Core Values program. Each moth, a new value / virtue is introduced through newsletters, posters / flyers in the front foyer, morning announcements and class activities. Resource materials, including lesson plans, coloring sheets, posters, songs and “think-abouts”, are delivered to the staff to incorporate into the daily teachings. These values / virtues are reinforced daily through the use of our morning announcements. Students record a week’s worth of morning announcements to be played daily on the Promethean boards throughout the school. Included in the daily reminders and lunch menus are the “Character Ed Messages” for the day. The students deliver a variety of quotes, anecdotes, and reminders from various religions, historical figures, and current celebrities. The same information is posed in the front lobby for every visitor. The posters, stories, and activities promote the common language and buy-in from community members. Each week, the principal sends out an automated call reminding parents and community members of up-coming events. Included in that message is the character value for the month, with things to think about, quotes, or activities families can do at home to support the theme for the month.


Principle 3:
Many consider Character Education to be an add-on, something else to put on the already full plates of the teachers. At Deal Island Elementary School, character education is not something to add to the plate, it is the plate. And everything else is put upon that foundation of character. Being a small school of 106 students and 18 staff members, we are lucky enough to work as one collaborative team. Each week, team meetings are conducted with two different grade levels. For example, instead of meeting with a team of 2nd grade teachers, we meet with 2nd and 3rd grade. Our vertical teams allow us the opportunity to collaborate on character values / virtues as well as integrating other virtues into instruction. One such example would be in 4th and 5th grade. To reinforce content and character, each month the students have a poem to analyze, memorize, and discuss. The poem is based on the virtue / value and addresses CCSS standards. Each month, the school meets to conduct a School Improvement Team (SIT) Meeting. Again due to the small size and nature of our community, the SIT consists of every staff member, who is part of every team. Part of the monthly discussion, along with the parents and family members who attend, is to discuss character and expectations. We also spend part of that time preparing for the PBIS monthly incentive.

As part of the specials rotation, along with art, physical education, media, music, and computer, each of the 106 students has the opportunity to participate in a Character Ed special. In order to accommodate two grade levels having planning at one time, allowing for our vertical team meetings, we needed another special. The Character Ed special is facilitated by our School Counselor. She covers a wide variety of subject matter, including career planning, but a vast majority of the lessons reinforce the monthly virtue / value we are discussing on morning announcements and on newsletters.

Not only do the staff model good character on a daily basis, both among themselves and with the students, but a core group of positive student role models do as well. Again this year, we had a Student Government Association (SGA) that stood out as character models for our students. These students were elected by their peers to represent a student voice in the school. These students exhibited the positive traits / virtues that have been discussed all year long. They planned special events for other students throughout the year.


Principle 4:
Being a small school of 106 students and 18 staff members certainly has its advantages. Each day, the staff is not only able to talk to students but more importantly, listen. We take the time to hear what our students are saying, be it in the halls during Homeroom, during lunch, or at recess. Students feel comfortable coming to staff to report problems and seek assistance. To facilitate the feeling of one community, each class participates in class meetings at least twice a month. The teachers take the time to listen to what students are concerned about, integrating the virtue / value for that month during the discussions.

Our students have a unique opportunity to build friendships and grow together. With only one class per grade, many of our students are together, in the same classes, since Pre-Kindergarten. As such, strong friendships are forged, many that last a life-time. When new students arrive, which happens regularly, they are welcomed into the group and quickly acclimate to their new environment. Classroom teachers integrate many Kagan structures into daily lessons. These cooperative learning groups allow students the opportunity to work in a variety of groups to accomplish a common goal.


Principle 6:
As previously mentioned, due to our small size and limited number of classes, the teachers participate in vertical team meetings each week. These meetings consist of two different grade-level teachers, ie K &1st, 2nd & 3rd, and 4th & 5th, as well as the administrator who also serves as the Reading Coach and Math Facilitator. The special education teacher attends when her schedule permits as well. These meetings are data-driven meetings revolving around student success and necessary interventions to help students succeed. Much of the discussion revolves around those students in need of extra support, but many of our students who are successful need to be challenged. As such, much of the teaching style of our staff includes differentiated instruction, meeting the students where they are. Those students who need additional opportunities are challenged through hands-on, STEM lessons including creating an airplane that would have saved Amelia Earhart and a wind-powered boat.


Principle 7:
Like all Somerset County Schools, Deal Island Elementary is a P.B.I.S. school. Instead of using the “token economy” of paper slips or effort tickets, our school uses a point system. Students are expected to make the right decisions because it is the right thing to do. When they choose to make a negative choice, the students will lose their point for that particular part of the day. For example, if a student is yelling in the cafeteria during lunch, they may lose their lunch point. In order to attend the monthly PBIS incentives, students must earn 80% of the total points for the month. Students who fail to meet that standard or who receive and office or bus referral spend the time with administration, reflecting on which expectations they failed to meet and developing a plan to earn the points to attend next month’s incentive.

Celebrating the positive in our staff and students is equally important. Students are recognized for their positive choices at each of our quarterly award ceremonies. Students earn awards for academic as well as behavioral successes. Students who attend the incentives for that quarter earn a Skipjack Award.


Principle 9:
Deal Island Elementary School is a small school of 18 staff members and 106 students. To produce successful, civil minded students takes a team effort. The responsibilities cannot fall to one individual, be it the school counselor or the principal. Every staff member participates in behavior discussions at monthly staff meetings as well as sits on the Character Committee as part of the School Improvement Team.

Students are also developing the important leadership qualities through the Student Government Association. Students see, first hand, the role they play in the success of their peers.



Character Trait:




Little children, never give
Pain to things that feel and live:

Let the gentle robin come
For the crumbs you save at home,—
As his meat you throw along
He'll repay you with a song;

Oh! let him sing his happy song,
Nor do any gentle creature wrong.

This is the memorization poem for this month’s character trait. Any student who can prove to Mrs. Pusey that they have memorized this poem AND they have demonstrated this trait for the month will earn:




Character Ed Messages
Week of March 14 - 18 , 2016

Monday, March 14, 2016
Good morning (name of school). Welcome back! Did you see examples of hope this weekend? Did something good come from something bad? Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is a light despite all of the darkness.” He was referring to the practices in Africa that led to people of different colors being treated differently. It is called apartheid. He worked hard for many years to help bring about change and he was successful because he had hope.
With something to think about - make this a great day – or not . . the choice is yours!


Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Good morning, (name of school). The big idea this month is……hope! That’s right! Hope is believing something good can come from something bad. Remember our saying for this month: “when things look bad, don’t sulk or mope; keep looking for answers and you’ll find hope.”
With something to think about - make it a great day - or not. The choice is yours.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Good morning (name of school). The big idea this month is hope. Hope is believing that something good can come from something bad. Did you know that monarch butterflies travel thousands of miles each year? Monarch butterflies travel in huge groups from areas in Southern California and Mexico to the rest of the southern United States every year. The same butterflies don’t make the return trip, but their children do. These trips show that even though the journey is long and difficult, the lifeline of the butterflies live on in their offspring.
With something to think about - make this a great day - or not. The choice is yours!


Thursday, March 17, 2016
Good morning (name of school). Do you remember what hope means? You got it! Hope is believing something good can come from something bad. Robert Schuller said, “Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.” Do you know someone who gets their feelings hurt easily or stays angry for a long time? That person doesn’t have room for hope. You could help that person by being a friend and helping them see the positive things that can happen in life. That is called optimism. Some people are naturally optimistic while others are not. It is up to the optimists in the world to help their friends see blue sky, instead of only the clouds.
With something to think about - make it a great day – or not . . . the choice is yours


Friday, March 18, 2016
Good morning (name of school). The big idea this month is hope. Hope is believing that something good can come from something bad. Do you know what “once in a blue moon” means? Each month, there is a full moon. However, some months, because of the number of days in that month, might have two full moons. The second full moon is referred to as a “blue moon” even though it isn’t blue. What we want to describe something that happens rarely, we could say “that happens once in a blue moon” to mean that it doesn’t happen very often. Sometimes we think that we can be hopeful about our future every day, not just every once in a while.
With something to think about - make it a great day – or not . . . the choice is yours!




The Maryland Center for Character Education at Stevenson University
School of Education, 1525 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, MD 21153

E-Mail: MCCEcharacter@aol.com