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Hartselle Intermediate earns School of Character distinction

Hartselle Intermediate School students and staff are celebrating their most recent success. The school recently was named a School of Character by Character.org – one of four schools statewide to receive the designation.  

Different from other recent achievements by HIS, the School of Character distinction has been a long process – one that has been in development since the school was founded seven years ago. Brittany Wagoner, who teaches sixthgrade mathematics at Hartselle Intermediate, said being named a National School of Character has been the cherry on top of a character journey the school has been on for the better part of a decade. 

“Our main goal from the very beginning was simply to teach character education and to watch our students thrive and grow in this new environment and hopefully watch them take it on when they leave us,” she said. 

The character curriculum, Wagoner said, is heavily emphasized to HIS students every day. Even the name of the school reflects the mission: Hardwork, Integrity, Success.  

“After our first year, we really wanted to put something in place that would bring us together, that would unify us,” school librarian Julie Rhodes explained. “When we started talking, what we felt was most important was for our students to have skills that go beyond academicsWe wanted to teach them responsibility and the importance of hard work  ethics and internal character values.”  

Rhodes added those soft skills” – those that students can’t be graded on – are the backbone of Hartselle Intermediate.  

The Hartselle Intermediate School Character team is made up of seven members: Wagoner, Rhodes, Debra Harvel Kreps, Allyson Hamilton, Earon Sheats, Emily Mead and Wendy Crow. 

Hamilton said the success is thanks to a huge team effort.” 

“It has been such a privilege working alongside such an incredible family of teachers, staff, students and parents,” she said. “I’m so proud of our school’s growth and the development of our HIS Tiger Way.” 

Crow added out of all the success the school has seen so far, the National School of Character designation is what she is most proud of.  

Sheats, who is in her first year as HIS principal, said the character journey the school has been on was a grassroots movement from the beginning.  

This was something that stemmed from a need in our school,” she said. “I saw this from the standpoint of a parent, too, and it’s clear that what we’re doing is working. To get the recognition from a national level and have Character.org say ‘This is what we want other schools to strive to be like’ is a real honor.”  

Character.org is widely known for its “11 Principles Framework for Schools: A Guide to Cultivating a Character-Inspired Culture,” which is a comprehensive framework developed by school leaders and character education researchers.  

Throughout the past 20 years, more than 800 schools – after an independent and rigorous evaluation process – have been recognized by Character.org as National Schools of Character. More recently, school districts have also been certified for their success in fostering character development.  

According to Hartselle Intermediate’s official certificate, the school has implemented the rigorous standards articulated in the framework.  

HCS Superintendent Dr. Dee Dee Jones said this designation further proves Hartselle Intermediate’s dedication to excellence.  

“These schools and school districts serve as an exemplary model for all schools and districts across the nation,” added Lori Soifer, who directs the Schools of Character program. “The educators at these schools are inspiring their students to treat all people with respect and dignity. They are teaching their students to be honest and trustworthy, to contribute their time and talents to the common good and, when necessary, to show the courage to stand up for what is right.” 

Hartselle Intermediate will be honored by Character.org during its next National Forum. 

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