Wright City school clubs get new accolade

Derrick Forsythe
Staff Writer

It has been said that kindness is contagious.

It seems that the idea of an organized effort to promote kindness is equally captivating.

Wright City West Elementary continues to garner positive feedback for its initiatives to encourage positive character traits.

“That’s something we’re working toward as a building,” said Principal Patrick Wallace. “We’ve been really intensely helping kids with social-emotional learning.”

The school recently had two of its organizations, the Kindness Club and Houses, honored with the National Promising Practice Award. The accolades are an annual recognition by Character.org of specific classroom or school-wide initiatives and practices that are significant examples of character development.

“It was great affirmation for us that we are on the right track,” said Wallace. “We have the internal data, so this is almost like a validation from a national organization. Hopefully it will serve as fuel to continue the journey.”

West Elementary was one of just 246 schools across the country to be recognized for two separate clubs, meeting the mark in four areas of merit. These included uniqueness, commitment to character education principles, clarity of those principles and data to identify the impact.

“This was a way for us to see how we’re doing,” said Wallace. “We’re wanting to be a national school of character, and that’s what we’re working toward.”

Prior to school being canceled, the Kindness Club met every Friday to explore ways to encourage random acts of kindness within the school and community. It was a concept Wallace introduced upon arrival to the district three years ago.

“We do some community service project or identity building,” said Wallace. “Kids get small individual lessons around core values and a chance to incorporate those into the community setting.”

Additionally, Houses provides an opportunity for students to work together in developing core values. Once a month, an adult meets with 12 students from each grade level as part of a small House. Grade level Houses also come together on a monthly basis for a larger collaborative meeting.

“We brought the idea of Houses to West Elementary as a way for our students and staff to become more connected on a variety of platforms,” said fourth-grade teacher Sarah Smith. “Every personality is unique and Houses are one way that our staff continues to grow in our social-emotional pedagogy.”

Houses was able to continue meeting virtually through Zoom during COVID-19, encouraging students during the social limitations of quarantine.

“I’m giving a lot of credit to our teachers, because they’re the ones doing the work,” said Wallace. “Our teachers are the driving force, and it’s been fantastic.”

He said the impact has been evident both in the school environment and through the data feedback since the inception of the clubs.

“We’ve seen a reduction in bullying and a lot of kids emerging as leaders,” said Wallace. “The root of why an elementary teacher gets into education is to help kids. This is a structured opportunity twice a month to help students.”

Wallace said he completed the Leadership Academy of Character Eduction through University of Missouri-St. Louis while an assistant principal in the Parkway School District. Convinced of its efficacy, he is now encouraging R-II administrators to take the same training.

“We still have some serious work to do with helping our students reach their highest potential, but I truly believe this is a step in the right direction,” added Smith.

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