Character education improves schools

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 31, 2012

Character at Heart director Pam Morgan, center, presented a program to Rotarians this week. She is shown with Ed Short of Covington Electric, which sponsors the program in Covington County, and Joe Proctor, who had her at Rotary as his guest.

Every day, 160,000 American children skip school because they are scared of being bullied.

Every 26 seconds, a student gets frustrated and drops out.

These stats, coupled with headlines about drugs and violence, are enough to convince retired educator Pam Morgan of Montgomery that there is a crisis of character in this country.

Morgan, who is now the state director of a character education organization called Character at Heart, spoke to Andalusia Rotarians about the crisis on Tuesday.

Morgan said she tries to teach teachers that character education is not something one throws at students for 10 minutes per day, as mandated by the Alabama legislature.

“It’s the way you look at them, the way you talk to them, the way you encourage them,” she said. “It’s a hand-in-hand, all-day thing.”

Character at heart has developed programs for teachers, parents and grandparents needed to move those 25 state-mandated character traits “off a piece of paper or the school marquee and into the heart of each child.”

Covington Electric sponsors Character at Heart in Covington County Schools.

Schools with character education programs, she said, have shown improved academic success, fewer behavioral referrals, and increased attendance.

“Students are more respectful of each other,” she said. “When students and teachers are happier, it is a win-win”

Earlier in the day, Morgan met with Andalusia City Schools superintendent Ted Watson about the possibility of introducing her program here. Watson said the Peer Helper program already makes a huge difference at Andalusia High School and Andalusia Middle School.

Morgan said the program costs about $2,000 per school per year.