What type of character traits do you want to see in your students?
Most educators would like to see students exhibiting qualities such as honesty, kindness, respect for others, willingness to learn new things, patience, self-control, and a desire to put forth maximum effort.
Jon Eppley, a teacher in Kentucky’s public schools, felt the same way. As a Christian educator, Eppley understood that he was in a position not only to expand and foster his students’ intellect, but he also had the opportunity to help shape and train the hearts of his students. Searching for a way to develop positive character traits in his students, he looked to Galatians 5:22-23 for guidance: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (NSAB).
After careful deliberation, planning, and prayer, Eppley developed the Student of Character Award. This award is designed to recognize students who exhibit the following positive character traits based on the fruit of the Spirit throughout the school year:
- Willingness to learn new things
- Sacrifice for the good of others
- Intrinsic motivation from a system of faith or morals
Starting with the first week of school, Eppley dedicated time each week to focus on a specific character trait. He gave his students the opportunity to talk about how these traits would make their classroom a better place. He encouraged them to point out when they saw the character traits in action through others. They regularly used the character trait terms throughout the year. By award time at the end of the year, Eppley’s students understood the character traits so well that they were able to explain them to their families.
Needless to say, Eppley’s classroom Student of Character Awards were a great success. So much so that the next year, with the principal’s approval, Eppley was able to include the whole fifth grade class in the award process. Teachers nominated students from each classroom (each nominee received a certificate). Then, two recipients from the whole fifth grade class were chosen to receive the Student of Character Award. The principal decided to save the Student of Character Awards for the very end of the ceremony, announcing the award by saying, “We love academics, but we really want you to leave with this.” Parents said it was the most important award of the whole day.
As other CEAI members heard about the impact of this award, they also began to present it at their schools’ end of the year ceremonies. In addition to Eppley’s school, Student of Character Awards are now presented in multiple schools throughout Kentucky and Tennessee.
Would you like to award students in your school who treat others with respect, serve without being asked, and exhibit character traits consistent with the fruit of the Spirit?
If so, CEAI can help!
CEAI offers a framework to simplify the process of bringing the Student of Character Award to your school, including a helpful toolbox with a timeline to manage the process, communication and certificate templates, a plaque suggestion, and an award speech approved by a CEAI attorney.
Rest assured, this award meets all of the guidelines for use in a public school. There is no law against rewarding the character traits listed in the award criteria, even though these traits are consistent with Christian values.
Gail Jones served with CEAI in Kentucky. She loves to practice hospitality and to garden. She has a deep appreciation for the impact Christian educators have wherever they are.
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