Teachers continue program of character-building

By Laurie Stone

Teachers always try to instill responsibility in their students. It becomes even more of an issue this month, thanks to a long-standing Portales school system that focuses on character.
Responsibility is one of the six pillars of Character Counts that is being focused on this month in Portales’ public schools.
According to the James Elementary Web site, the word responsibility is applied to a person whose character meets the demands of duty, is accountable, pursues excellence and exercises self control.
The Character Counts Program was adopted by the Portales Municipal School District in 1993 as part of the PMSD vision plan for enabling students to become productive and successful citizens.
Elementary school counselor Lisa Harrell has been leading the Character Counts program for the past seven years.
“Everyone can benefit from Character Counts whether in the public school or in the community,” said Harrell. “Whether we realize it or not, the six pillars of Character are a part of our lives and personality, it’s just a matter of bringing them out of us.
“If everyone in our schools and community followed the six concepts, we’d get along better because we’d have respect for one another without giving up who we are.”
Glenda Meeks, the assistant principal at Portales Junior High, spearheaded the idea of bringing Character counts to the Portales schools when she was a fifth-grade Title I teacher. “I was watching a program on 20/20 about Character Counts and felt our kids could really use the information,” said Meeks.
She said that each school in Portales has its own way of implementing the six pillars into lessons for learning character.
“As kids progress in age, they don’t participate in the hands-on tools in the Character Counts Program such as plays, pledges and discussions.” Meeks said she believes that kids need to continue hearing about it until it becomes part of their language.
Tawny Griffin, sophomore at PHS, said, “The program isn’t emphasized as much when you get into higher grades as it is in the earlier grades. If it were, then people would be more likely to go by it,” said Griffin.
Becky Flen, Principal of Steiner Elementary, said it is important to not drop the ball when it comes to instilling the six pillars of Character Counts in students.
“Everyone is being held accountable for teaching students that Character Counts and the community looks up to us to follow through with this,” said Flen. “We’re giving students a tool to rely upon later in their lives to help them make decisions.”
Harrell said that no child should stop being taught the six pillars of character.
According to the Character Counts Coalition the six pillars are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
“Kids are our future,” said Meeks. “We must instill character within them to make our nation great.”