Character.org, a national advocate and leader for character, and character education, designated Valleyview Middle School a State School of Character on Friday, January 27, 2023. The Denville Township school is 1 of only 73 State Schools of Character and 2 State Districts of Character announced across the United States for 2023. Denville Township is located in Morris County, New Jersey.
“You should be proud of your team’s accomplishment,” wrote Lori Soifer, Director of Character.org’s Schools of Character Program.”A State School of Character designation is not easy to obtain. The review team evaluated 197 applications from schools and districts that are working tirelessly to create a culture of character.”
Character Education is a Denville Township school district priority. It is a designated goal of the district’s 2022 5-Year Strategic Plan, which states: “Create an environment that fosters self-aware, resilient, civically-minded and empathetic citizens.”
Character.org certifies schools and districts each year at the state level that have developed and implemented an intentional, proactive, and comprehensive approach that embeds character into all aspects of the school life.
Some examples of Valleyview’s recognized character-building strengths include:
- The REACH (Respect, Empathy, Achieve, Courage, Honor) initiative – which reflects the school’s core values.
- Viking Connections – which allows students to connect with staff, one another, and the community; providing experiences and time for students to grow, reflect, and internalize core values. Viking Connections include:
- Getting to Know You,
- Mock Trial
- No one Eats Alone
- Mix it Up
- Peer Leaders Mentoring New Students – which contributes to solid character bonds.
- Green Team Pollinator Project – in which students work together to take action and to promote strong and responsible stewardship.
- Trep’s Night – where students build community through their support of each other as entrepreneurs.
“We are excited to announce today the 2023 State Schools and Districts of Character,” said Dr. Arthur Schwartz, Character.org’s President. “Each of these schools and districts have put into place an initiative that equips and empowers their staff to reinforce and model a range of positive core values that will shape and form the hearts, minds, and choices of their students.”
Character.org is a worldwide network of educators, researchers, and civic leaders that empowers people of all ages to practice and model the character strengths and core values that shape the hearts, minds and choices of every person.
Criteria for the selection of State Schools of Character is based on Character.org’s 11 Principles Framework for Schools: A Guide to Cultivating a Culture of Character.
The Character.org website explains the 11 Principles in the following manner: “Based on decades of research on effective schools, the 11 Principles serve as guideposts for schools to plan, implement, assess, and sustain their comprehensive character development initiative.”
The 11 Principles Framework includes key indicators on creating a caring school community where everyone feels they belong, providing students with opportunities to practice and reflect on their character strengths, and engaging families and communities as partners in the school’s character initiative.
Since its inception, Character.org’s Schools of Character program has positively impacted nearly three million students, staff, parents, and other community members.
“Character is at the heart of the district’s goal to ‘foster self-aware, resilient, civically-minded, and empathetic citizens,’” said Superintendent Dr. Steven Forte. “For Valleyview Middle School to be named a State School of Character is a very proud moment for all of us. This honor is well-deserved. The staff and students work hard each day to embody the principles of character in all that they do. They make a difference in school, throughout the community, and across the world at large. I congratulate the Valleyview administration, faculty, staff, students, and parents on being named a State School of Character.”
The Character.org State School of Character designation is valid for five years. As a State School of Character, Valleyview Middle School is eligible to be considered for the National School of Character designation – which is Character.org’s highest distinction.
The 2023 National Schools of Character will be announced in May 2023 and honored at Character.org’s 30th Anniversary International Forum in fall 2023 in Washington D.C.