COLUMBIA—St. Joseph pumped up the volume on its recent character award, turning a regional School of Character honor into national recognition.
Of the 44 schools that received the national award from the Character Education Partnership, St. Joseph is the only one from South Carolina, plus the only Catholic school in the country.
“We believe that a positive school culture — what many people call ‘school climate’ — is the cornerstone of a great school. St. Joseph has as its core the strong morals and character education indicative of parochial schools across the country,” said Rose Tindall, principal.
Schools of Character are honored for teaching positive values such as kindness and respect. St. Joseph received honorable mention twice before, said Lisa Leonard, the guidance counselor who leads the character program.
Leonard works with a committee of parents, students, faculty and members of the community. She said the school has used character education for about nine years and in 2012 decided to come up with its own program centered on Catholic teaching and identity.
They developed a list of values matching letters in the word JOSEPH: Just, Obedient, Service-Oriented, Example to Others, Prayerful and Humble.
“We wanted to make the program more suitable and personal for us,” Leonard said. “The six values can be used in all aspects of life at the school. Being humble, for instance, includes practicing good sportsmanship. Being obedient includes being responsible, following rules and being a good listener.”
The character partnership committee noted that in schools of character, adults embrace their critical role as models. At St. Joseph, students are reminded to incorporate the JOSEPH principles into daily life, said Chrissy Dingeldine, who serves on the character committee. Her daughter Cate, 8, is in the second grade.
The values are mentioned daily in each class and in school announcements. Students reflect on them in journal entries and discuss them at home, she said.
“There is a very real sense of kindness at the school,” Dingeldine said. “You very rarely see acts of unkindness on the playground, for instance, because the students have a sense of moral responsibility and understand they’re part of a community. They learn the golden rule and how to treat each other with respect.”
Her daughter said the program is helpful.
“I like it because it steers people straight and helps them to do the right thing,” Cate said.