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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: Owings Mills Elementary School

Address: 10824 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills, MD 21117
Principal: Chet Scott
E-Mail: cscott@bcps.org

Phone: 410-887-1710


Character Ed. Contact: Jennifer Conrad

E-Mail: jconrad@bcps.org


Title of Best Practice: Building Relationships Through Class Meetings


Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, & 11


Objective(s): To strengthen and maintain our positive school culture by nurturing relationships amongst students and staff.



For many years, our principal visited all classrooms to conduct class meetings. His main goal was to establish relationships with students. He truly valued the experience of learning each student’s name and learning more about each student’s interests, goals, concerns, etc... Additionally, he wanted to model class meetings for classroom teachers to empower them to continue to build and nurture relationships through class meetings of their own. Participating in professional development with Dara Feldman, validated the importance of class meetings and further equipped teachers and staff with additional tools to purposefully facilitate community circles. With our new learning, community circles are taking place daily. Relationships are being strengthened and students are able to articulate what they are thinking, how they are feeling, and express reasons for their actions. As our school moves forward in planning for the 2017-18 school year, community circle time is being built in to the daily schedules.


Title of Best Practice: Professional Development: Dara Feldman, Founder of The Virtues Project. Presentation packet titled: Bringing Joy, Meaning and Purpose Back to Teaching and Learning.


Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, & 11


Objective(s): To develop and deepen our staff’s understanding of virtues language and how to apply a restorative approach when creating safe, caring, and high performing learning communities.



On April 4, and April 27, 2017, approximately 40 members of our staff engaged in professional development sessions with Dara Feldman, from 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.. During both sessions our staff gained a deeper understanding of restorative practice techniques, as well as the value and impact of utilizing virtues language. Participation in the professional development sessions empowered teachers in promoting core ethical values, developing consistent and comprehensive approaches to character development, and in maintaining a caring school community. Participation in this activity also fostered a shared commitment for providing moral leadership and in evaluating our current functioning as character educators. Immediately after each session, our staff was eager to implement the language and techniques we learned from Dara Feldman.

Title of Best Practice: Virtuous Videos


Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, & 11


Objective(s): To demonstrate correct ways to display and exemplify virtuous behavior.



In the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, teachers and students in each grade level, worked collaboratively to create and act out scenarios that demonstrated non-examples and examples of virtuous behavior. Videos were shared weekly on televised morning announcements for the school community. This activity, provided students and teachers the opportunity to promote good character in a fun and purposeful way. The videos provide concrete examples of how a caring school community thinks, feels and acts.


Title of Best Practice: Career Awareness Program and 5th Grade Visit to Towson University


Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, & 10


Objective(s): To foster an awareness of college and career readiness opportunities and preparation.



Our school prides itself on not only focusing on making our students successful in the present, but also on preparing them for excellence in the future. There are two unique and exciting opportunities our 5th graders have had access to that have increased enthusiasm, determination and self-motivation for college and career readiness.


To shed light on possible occupations or career choices, two teachers from our school facilitate the Career Awareness Program yearly. Students reflect on their personal interests and strengths and then research how they connect to potential career paths. Guest speakers from various occupations visit and share their job descriptions and provide students with a glimpse into their field and how to prepare for that job. Students also participate in mock job interviews to develop skills such as friendliness, assertiveness and confidence when speaking and listening.


Further, we are a Professional Development school that partners with Towson University to support pre-service teachers in their internship experience. Because of this, we have been fortunate to organize and arrange more than several trips for our 5th graders to visit the Towson University campus. Students have been able to tour classrooms, experience eating in the dining hall, and visit the student union as well as cultural arts and sports related facilities to experience a day in the life of a college student.


Both activities are proactive approaches to college and career options for our students. The experience allows for students to begin thinking of their future and to set goals that will help them succeed now and as they continue their educational journey


Title of Best Practice: Extracurricular Experiences: Days of Taste,
Battle of the Books, Ballroom Dance


Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, & 10


Objective(s): To provide students with experiences outside of the classroom that promote virtues of cooperation, courage, and initiative.



Not only do students need academic skills and experiences, but they also need exposure to extracurricular activities that build their character and make them well-rounded, productive, and globally prepared citizens. Our school offers three such opportunities for our students. Participating in Days of Taste provides our urban students with an understanding of the farm to table process. Students visit a farm as wells prepare a meal to eat using ingredients from the local farm. Battle of the Books is a Baltimore County Public Library sponsored event, calling on students to read from a collection of Black Eyed Susan award winning books, and then to compete against other schools in answering questions of varying levels based on the various books. Finally Ballroom Dance is a program offered electively through Baltimore County Public Schools. This program teaches students several forms of ballroom dance, with a culmination of a grand performance for parents at the end of a full week of learning and practicing.


Each activity asks the students and teachers to call on virtues such as trust, consideration, enthusiasm, determination, and responsibility. In these new and exciting learning situations, students further develop their character in a different, yet comprehensive way. They are able to witness how their virtues, behaviors and attitudes impact others and our world outside the four walls of a classroom. These activities also engage our families and community members as our partners in the character-building effort and process.

Title of Best Practice: Teacher Appreciation Week 2017:Honoring the Gifts of You


Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, & 9


Objective(s): To promote, reinforce, and acknowledge the virtuous gifts of our staff.



Each year Teacher Appreciation Week is celebrated across Baltimore County Public Schools. This year we chose to honor our staff and the work we have committed to do together in implementing restorative practices and in utilizing virtues language. We felt it would be purposeful to first recognize the many virtues our staff brings to educating our students daily. Each day of the week, teachers were greeted with a virtue that our staff demonstrates collectively. Treats and gifts were centered around the virtue. By doing this, teachers became more enthusiastic in using the language and in recognizing the virtue in themselves and in their students


Title of Best Practice: Daily student check-ins with administrators &
Lunch Celebrations

Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, & 11


Objective(s): To support students in their behavior choices by fostering self-motivation, integrity, and self-discipline.



In order to support students who may need a more intentional approach to character development, our administrators have facilitated daily check-ins with identified students from all grade levels. Students check-in in the morning, mid-day and before dismissing for the day. During the check-ins daily or weekly goals are set and students develop a plan for self-discipline and discuss ways they will work to meet their goal. Each administrator also suggests and guides ways for the student to think and act in a more moral and ethical way. Although students earn a tangible celebration for their efforts, the more desirable outcome is to make the students intrinsically motivated to demonstrate good character and virtuous behavior.


Title of Best Practice: School Safety Program


Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, & 11


Objective(s): To encourage and allow students to develop and demonstrate positive leadership skills while serving as role-models for younger students.



Each year 10-12 fifth grade students are chosen to be members of the Owings Mills Elementary School Safety Program. Students are required to complete an application and write a short essay explaining why they qualified for the position. Students are then selected by a panel of teachers. Students who are selected demonstrate virtues of friendliness, orderliness, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, self-discipline, confidence, and honesty as they take their posts in the morning and afternoons to remind students of safe hallway expectations and behavior. Safeties serve as role models for our students and are admired and respected.



Title of Best Practice: Canned Food Drive/Pantry, School Book Drive,
School Supplies


Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, & 8


Objective(s): To act in service and compassion to provide for students and families who experience food insecurity and lack of materials for academic achievement.



Each year our school is able to provide support to students and families in multiple ways. Through our partnership with an area church, a local insurance company, and Chick-Fil-A, our school is generously inundated with donations of school supplies and backpacks. These donations are shared with students throughout the year as frequently as needed. In addition, each November, students within our school donate non-perishable food items that are used to stock the food panty here at our school and at the church we partner with. Finally, one of the greatest drives we have had the last 4 years is led by a student who collects gently used books for children in area hospitals.


In all collections, students and staff give generously and in the spirit of service to others.


Title of Best Practice: Secret Shoppers at Christmas


Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, & 8


Objective(s): To provide for families within our school who are in need during the holiday season.



As a very large Title I school, we unfortunately have many families who are in need during the holiday season. Fortunately, we also have a very large and very generous staff. Each year our school librarian works with our guidance counselors to identify families to shop for, and then organizes the coordination of items to purchase, wrap and deliver to their homes while the students are in school. Staff members eagerly contribute and participate in this yearly tradition. Our staff not only recognizes how deserving our wonderful students and hard-working families are, but they also recognize and appreciate sharing the spirit of service and compassion with fellow colleagues.


Title of Best Practice: FAME: Formative Assessment for Maryland Educators


Primary Principles Emphasized: 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, & 9


Objective(s): To employ and apply formative assessment strategies in order to provide students with meaningful and descriptive feedback that improves learning and achievement.



During the 2016-17 school year, approximately 45 staff members participated in a course titled, FAME: Formative Assessment for Maryland Educators. This elective course deepened our staff’s understanding of the formative assessment process and the immense benefits of descriptive feedback for our students. Participation in this coursework allowed our teachers to work together to develop consistent approaches to providing students with success criteria that sets the stage for academic growth and achievement. FAME coursework also reinforced how staff members are able to continue to cultivate a caring learning community by conferencing with students to set goals. The course also provided strategies for offering guidance as students develop self-motivation to meet their goals through self and peer assessment.

Our staff was excited to recognize the use of formative assessment by their colleagues by sharing examples in a Walk of FAME culminating activity. We were even more excited to recognize the accomplishments of our students.


Title of Best Practice: Professional Development: Stephen Covey & The Fish Philosophy


Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, & 11


Objective(s): To promote and maintain a positive school culture by adopting habits and principles that nurture a positive, engaging, and safe learning environment.



Chet Scott has been the principal at Owings Mills Elementary School for 24 years. During this time, he has been visionary in leading our staff to be the best educators, and the best examples of great character, for our students. To help us in being purposeful in all that we do, Mr. Scott has consistently, intentionally, and effectively applied components of Stephen Covey’s, Seven Habits of Highly Successful People as well as Pike Place Fish Market’s, Fish! Philosophy to create a positive and strong school culture where teachers feel empowered and safe to take risks and have fun while learning and teaching. This approach has definitely engaged the school staff as a learning and moral community as described in Principle 8. Our staff collectively shares core values and approaches to working and learning that help us provide consistency and stability to our students of all ages and grade levels. Our building consistently reflects a caring school community because of habits such as seeking first to understand and the key beliefs of being there for the students, and making their day!


Title of Best Practice: Math/Reading Nights, Choral & Band Concerts


Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, & 10


Objective(s): To engage with parents, guardians and other community members by highlighting key components of academic and cultural programs offered within our school.



What better way to engage with our community and showcase the many talents of our students and teachers, than through hands-on experiences. Each year our Community Involvement team organizes Math and Reading Nights that invite parents and guardians to join with school staff members in activities such as signing up for library cards at the public library or enjoying teachers as guest readers at Barnes and Noble, or using math skills at the local grocery store to shop for a week worth of groceries. Teachers also invite families to join together for choral and band concerts that demonstrate the students’ commitment to learning new instruments and in singing new musical pieces.


All such activities allow123 students to also demonstrate their developing character in ways that reflect thinking, feeling, and doing. These activities also greatly engage families and community members as partners in building character virtues such as confidence, creativity, perseverance, and flexibility.


Title of Best Practice: Play Day


Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 10


Objective(s): To engage the school community in fun, physical activities that encourage kindness, helpfulness, and unity.



As each school year draws to a close, Play Day is highly anticipated by students in each grade. Play Day is a day that truly epitomizes unity, kindness, and helpfulness; teams wouldn’t make it through any of the activities without it! In years past, our Play Day activities earned points and awarded classes in each grade level 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th place, etc. Observing that the points system generated more competition than unity and friendship, the awarding of points and ranking have been removed. While there are still teams coming in first and last, earning points is no longer the focus of the day. Students are first encouraged to have fun while completing the various play day stations with orderliness, fairness, enthusiasm, determination, and grit. Play Days bring students, parents, and staff together to celebrate team work and friendships that have developed and grown all year long.



Title of Best Practice: Wide Reading Celebrations & Goal Setting


Primary Principles Emphasized: 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, & 10


Objective(s): To promote purposefulness, self-discipline, and excellence by setting and monitoring personal and appropriate academic and personal goals.



It goes without saying how important it is for students to read every day. In an effort to encourage independent reading, our school sets monthly goals for an amount of reading to be done for the students to strive for. Students have the option of choosing from various forms of reading materials, chapter books, magazines, picture books, graphic novels, etc., that are on their reading level. Students are given choice to promote self-motivation, and the goals encourage self-discipline and commitment. At the end of the school year, a celebration is held to recognize students who met our year end goal and to award trophies to the Top 10 readers in each grade level. Parents are invited to attend the celebration as well.




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

E-Mail: MCCEcharacter@aol.com