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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 2016 - 2017.




School: Oklahoma Road Middle School

Address: 6300 Oklahoma Road, Sykesville, MD 21784
Principal: Erin Brilhart
E-Mail: embrilh@carrollk12.org

Phone: 410-751-3600


Character Ed. Contact: Beth Prestianni

E-Mail: baprest@carrollk12.org


Primary Principles Emphasized: 4, 7, 9, 10, & 11


Objective(s): To promote an environment and curriculum where students will become citizens of strong moral character by incorporating character education lessons, themes, and traits into daily school activities and involving all stakeholders including students, staff, parents, and the community.


Principle 4: The school creates a caring community.


Oklahoma Road Middle School’s (ORMS) school counselors helped students celebrate Bullying Prevention Month in October, including a school-wide Unity Day. Students dressed in the same color to stand as one, and prizes were awarded to the most spirited outfits. Students also had the opportunity to enter an essay contest that focused on PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center and its “Be United Against Bullying” campaign.

Students at ORMS are also encouraged to find a sense of community, support, and fun through supporting the National Red Ribbon Week campaign. Each day drug prevention announcements were made to promote an awareness. Included in this campaign was a Spirit Week, which was held in late October. Each day held a theme connected to a drug prevention slogan and students dressed to support each theme. Homerooms, grades, and even teachers prided themselves on their participation and their dedication to school spirit.

6th grade students experienced lessons during the fall with their school counselor that focused on empathy and expressing gratitude. Through the lessons, students were able to define empathy and describe appropriate empathetic responses to specific emotions or experiences. Students were guided to demonstrate social maturity and chose behaviors appropriate to the situation and environment. These lessons encouraged students to develop and maintain positive and supportive relationships with other students.

Within the school community, ORMS teachers organize and manage a peer mentoring program. 8th and 7th grade students assist 7th and 6th grade students that may be struggling with organization and motivation. The focus of the program includes helping to organize student materials and set goals with current and future tasks. The program targets identified students that would benefit from additional academic and emotional support. The mentor and mentee students build a caring and respectful relationship, which in turn fosters self-motivation.

ORMS has an active Twister News Live Team (TNL) group. TNL is a student run morning announcements broadcast group. Every morning they have a live broadcast of the school’s daily events. This group also provides many service projects to the community. Most recently, the group raised money through its “shout-outs” to donate to Heifer International, which supports sustainable agriculture for families on a global scale. ORMS students pay one dollar to have a shout-out read to a friend. Other efforts this year including raising money for SHOUT’s Pennies for Patients fundraiser, as well as funds for the Pets-on-Wheels organization and dog treats for the therapy dogs.

Student organization SHOUT sponsored “Pennies for Patients,” benefiting the Lymphoma and Leukemia Foundation. ORMS students participated in a money collecting program; buckets were set up in the lunchroom where students could donate. Teachers, instructional assistants, and administrators volunteered to perform certain activities if students donated the most money to their bucket. All proceeds went to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which is the largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding research, finding cures and ensuring access to treatments for blood cancer patients. In addition, SHOUT worked with the Salvation Army to collect donations to benefit local families during the holiday season and made scarves which were donated to the local Meals on Wheels.

ORMS is dedicated to helping students achieve academic and personal growth. Administrators, teachers, and other staff members offer their time and resources to support student interests. This year, ORMS has supported the following clubs or groups: Children’s Book Academy, SCORE Challenge Team, Battle of the Books, Coding Club, SHOUT, Student Government Association, Drama, Education that is Multicultural, Twister News Live, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Chess Club, Yearbook Club, Run 4 Change, Morning Fitness Clubs, Ski Club, Geography Bee, Afternoon Appetites, and Afternoon Dance and Recreation activities. There are many opportunities for students to find a welcoming niche here at ORMS.

ORMS participates in an incentive program that helps recognize students when they demonstrate positive and caring actions. Students can earn Twister Tickets that are drawn on a regular basis for rewards or for access to ORMS’ monthly Twister Rewards Parties. The chance for these rewards and parties encourages students to engage with one another and with their teachers in a more respectful and caring way. These are only a few examples of how ORMS students, staff and community create a caring and supportive environment. The ORMS community is extremely aware of the needs of our stakeholders, and puts forth great effort to help others.

Principle 7: Strives to Foster students’ self-motivation


Oklahoma Road Middle School staff, students, parents, and the community work diligently to foster self-motivation. Many of our students are motivated to do well academically. Over 65% of student make the Honor Roll each quarter. Over 63% of students have 94.00 % attendance or higher. Over 97% students have completed Student Service Hours this school year.

Students need to be self-motivated to complete tasks for several extra-curricular activities: Yearbook Committee, Drama Club, Choir, Chess Club, Cultural Connections, and Student Government just to name a few. Several times this year individual students have requested to start a new club/group. The Anime Club and The Fellowship of Christian Athletes are two examples of student initiated groups this year. Both have been very successful and have over ten students attending regular meetings.

This year ORMS developed a student mentor program. This program offers students who are “at risk” an opportunity to work with other student mentors on a regular basis. Student mentors help at-risk students create goals for themselves that foster self-motivation in the areas of academics, personal, social, emotional, and career readiness. To date we had over 30 students involved in this program.
Oklahoma Road also has a Student Government Association which strengths student’s leadership skills and fosters self-motivation. Many activities organized by the SGA involve students working independently. SGA sponsored events included Penny Wars, Spirit Week, a Basketball game, and Fun Night. Students are required to fill out an activity proposal for ideas they would like to implement. Student planning and preparation need to be well thought out when completing the activity proposal. Many students attend county and state level Student Government meetings and workshops to learn new skills necessary for effective student leadership.

Oklahoma Road Middle has a school-wide reward system “Caught Being Good”. Teachers give students Character Tickets for demonstrating positive character traits. Some of those behaviors include positive character traits such as: responsibility, respect, self-motivation, and kindness. Students turn these tickets in to receive a variety of rewards and possibly be selected to attend the monthly Character Party.

S.H.O.U.T., Students Helping Others Understand Themselves has sponsored many events that encouraged others to be self-motivated. SHOUT students performed acts of kindness to other students at ORMS. In return, the recipient will receive a card to perform an act of kindness to another student, passing it on. Then the student may write the act of kindness on the SHOUT bulletin board. This activity promotes kindness in treating others throughout the school year. SHOUT was also involved in collecting Pennies for Patients. The money raised was donated to the American Lymphoma Association.

Many of the ELA teachers use journal reflections that tie into character traits as well as highlight reading selections that connect. Also, we use Excellence Portfolios with reflection sheets encouraging students to be self-motivated and self-reflective

One of the Character Education lessons we conducted was specifically on Resiliency. During this lesson teachers discussed with students the meaning of resiliency and gave examples. Students were then asked to write on a paper brick a situation where they had to be resilient. These bricks were all hung together to demonstrate our wall of strength and how resilient our students can be.

Principle 10: Engages families and community members as partners in the character-building effort.


As a part of ORMS’ Character Education lessons and discussions on helpfulness and service, students supported several different community-aid efforts leading up to our winter break. Families and students collected dog and cat food and animal care items to be donated to the local Humane Society. Items were also collected for the local homeless shelters managed by Human Services Programs of Carroll County. The Children’s Book Academy is a club that encourages ORMS students to create their own picture books and provides the opportunity for our middle school students to visit a local elementary school and read to younger students.

The SCORE research database skills competition involved time here at school where our students trained together, but also incorporated family and community involvement for the final competition, where parents and community members gathered to see teams from schools around the county compete. The ORMS Battle of the Books teams also trained here at school to be able to compete in a larger county-wide competition in the spring. Our SGA organized an evening basketball game in March between ORMS students and students of another local middle school. All of these opportunities allow for families and community members to come together and champion for our students

ORMS also looks for opportunities to bring in perspectives from the community for our students to experience. Our media specialist organized a performance and talk from Walt Michaels. Mr. Michaels performed with several instruments, shared about the creative process, and connected his instruments and songs to important cultural events, such as the Civil Rights Movement. Our media specialist also invited a local singer/songwriter/artist, Ellen Cherry, to meet with 6th grade ELA classes to learn about the songwriting process and discuss some of her own interests, such as sharing history through songs and creating portraits of interesting women in history. Students were encouraged to draw from their own interests, life experiences, and emotion - both difficult and uplifting - to create something positive! On Veterans Day in November, ORMS invited family members of students who are currently serving or have served in the United States Military to attend a breakfast honoring their service. Several service members and veterans stayed through the day and spoke to students in their Social Studies classes about their military experiences.

Our Parent/Teacher Association plans events to bring our students and their families together, raising funds that support school programs and materials. This year the ORMS PTA has organized several Restaurant Nights, which encourage families to join together within the community at eat at a local restaurant. Some of the restaurant’s profits from the evening help support ORMS. Recreational evenings have also been planned by the PTA. For instance, families could attend an evening event at a local indoor trampoline park. The PTA works with our teacher representative and administration to plan and advertise events that connect students and families beyond the classroom.

This year one of our S.T.E.M.-Science/Technology/Engineering/Math classes created an aquaponics system which grew various produce products that were then donated to a local food bank for distribution to local families in need.

Principle 9: Fosters shared moral leadership and long range support of the character education initiative.

Principle 11: Evaluates the character of the school, the school staff's functioning as character educators, and the extent to which students manifest good character.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Oklahoma Road Middle School. To celebrate this anniversary, the School Improvement Team, Administration, and Character Education Committee developed activities and programs that would support the future of our school as we head into our next twenty years. First, we administered a survey to students, parents, and staff members in order to develop a new vision statement. From this we were able to develop a vision statement incorporating the values and principles that included a renewed dedication to character education. Our new vision statement states, “Oklahoma Road Middle School provides an environment of respect and collaboration where students develop skills and knowledge to become responsible citizens and preserve through challenging learning opportunities”. In order to foster positive communication, collaboration, citizenship, and character, we evaluated our existing character education program and decided to develop a new rewards/incentive program that focused on character traits of the month. The Character Education Committee created engaging character education lessons on traits including respect, resilience, and responsibility. The whole school conducts these lessons at the same time during our flex period to create a sense of unity and a common set of expectations for all. During one of these lessons, we directed students to analyze our newly developed vision statement. We broke students into groups to discuss and act out each part of our new vision statement. We then challenged each flex group to a door decorating contest to show how our vision statement builds good character. Attached are some pictures from the contest and the PowerPoint lesson. We have continued to build on this new vision statement and its role in our character education program throughout the school year. Our new vision cements the ideas that there will be long range support of character education and moral leadership into our next twenty years. This year-long activity and long range vision clearly focuses on principles 9 and 11.




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

E-Mail: MCCEcharacter@aol.com