Honest, responsible, kind. These are just a few character traits that the students at Pineville Elementary are taught. Every month, Charlotte-Mecklenburg elementary schools are given a character trait to teach students and integrate into their classrooms as a part of the CMS Character Education program.
Some schools, like Pineville Elementary, not only explain what the trait is, but also help their students use it in their everyday lives.
The program's goal is to help students understand and act upon values that positively impact their lives. At Pineville Elementary, the trait is introduced at the beginning of the month during the school's morning TV program by the counselor, Lorraine Zelenz.
"We run the show twice a week, and every time I talk about the trait to really get it into their minds," said Zelenz.
The trait is also integrated into the classroom through lessons prepared by Zelenz as well as through books that illustrate the trait.
The children are also exposed to the character trait by parent and church volunteers who come into the classroom and demonstrate what the trait means to them.
"It helps to have the students see that someone other than their teachers share these same values," said Zelenz.
Zelenz has been a school psychologist for 14 years and a counselor at Pineville Elementary for the past six years. She believes that instilling the importance of these character traits and values helps students in their lives.
"Studies have shown that (through the Character Education Program) students are getting better grades, being kinder to one another and having less disciplinary problems," said Zelenz. "I've definitely seen that in our students."
At the end of the month, each teacher from the 34 classes nominates a student for the Character Tea. To be nominated, the student has to have demonstrated the trait to their classmates and teacher during the month. The students and their families attend the tea, where the students are required to dress up and are honored for their character.
The Character Trait Fairy comes into each classroom to invite students. Zelenz dresses up in a costume, complete with hot pink gloves and a wand.
"The younger students get really mesmerized, but even the fourth- and fifth-graders enjoy it," said Zelenz. "They all know that one of their classmates is about to get an invitation to the tea."
The tea is held in the media room, which is decorated with table linens and color-coordinated centerpieces. "[The Staff] likes to make it look really nice for the students," said Zelenz. "It makes them feel special."
Jefferson Cochran, a fifth-grader, was nominated in October. The trait was responsibility, and Jefferson feels he deserved the nomination.
"I always do my homework and listen to my teacher," said Jefferson. "When I get home, I do my chores and help out with my little sister. I read to her every night."
Jefferson's sister, Caroline, is in kindergarten and was also nominated for the tea in October. Jefferson thinks she is responsible for a "little kid."
"She was the only one to not get in trouble that month," said Jefferson. Jefferson and Caroline's family came for the tea: their parents, both sets of grandparents and their older sister.
"It was really fun," said Jefferson. "I especially liked the cookies and punch."
Zelenz believes that by making the Character Education program a regular part of the student's lives, they will keep the values even after they've left school.
"I hope the traits become a part of who they are, so they can become productive citizens," said Zelenz.