Core Virtues in Action
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In this section of the website we feature schools and teachers who put the Core Virtues program into action. Our first choice for this spotlight was easy: Crossroads Academy, where the program began.
The Core Virtues program was piloted at
Crossroads Academy in Lyme, New Hampshire (a K-8 independent school and one of the nation’s first Core Knowledge schools) between 1991 and 1996. The author owes a special debt of gratitude to the wonderful faculty and students at Crossroads Academy, who have continued to provide counsel and feedback over the last fifteen years.
Founded in 1991 and celebrating its twentieth anniversary, Crossroads claims a number of firsts. The School is distinguished for its ambitious implementation of the Core Knowledge Sequence, and was one of the first schools in the country to employ that curriculum. Between 1994 and 1996, while Mary Beth Klee served as Head of School, she and Crossroads faculty puzzled over the best shape for their character education efforts. The result was Core Virtues. The author owes a special debt of gratitude to the wonderful Head, faculty and students at Crossroads Academy, who have continued to provide counsel and feedback over the last fifteen years.
Below: Head of School, Jean Behnke - whose love of children and learning is matched only by her passion for the School’s mission.
Stories of the Core Virtue program’s impact on Crossroads students are legion. Whether purchasing gifts for children at a homeless shelter from a penny drive that raised over $1400, voluntarily serving a community dinner on Christmas day, donating a room full of food to David’s House (a local charity) by running sponsored laps, or singing heartily to seniors at nursing homes, the kids frequently exhibit generosity, compassion, perseverance, and gratitude in action.
How does the “action” flow from the literature-
based program? “It’s a natural extension,” Jean Behnke comments. “The stories in our morning gatherings give the children real heroes, and inspire a love of the virtues. Kids have plenty of opportunities to practice those virtues in their daily interactions on the playground and in the classroom, but the desire to do more is always there.”
Without compromising the school’s academic focus, Crossroads teachers build on that desire creatively through various community service activities. These allow eager students to participate in a network that is broader than the School.
Crossroads Academy celebrates its 20th anniversary on opening day, August 31, 2011.
Previously featured Teachers of Virtue
Betsy Warren, Crossroads Academy Director of Admissions and Middle School Advisor
Betsy Warren has been teaching the Core Virtues program at Crossroads since its inception - longer than any teacher in the country!
Crossroads students all know Mrs. Warren as the teacher who loves them unconditionally and challenges them incessantly. Her teaching style combines high standards, joy, and a no-nonsense commitment to making sure that students (like Winston Churchill) “never, never, never give up!”
Stories of “virtue in action” at Crossroads abound, but some of the most revealing stories are virtue in attitude. In 1995, Mrs. Warren had to take a leave of absence from teaching, when a dear friend with small children (a parent in the school) was dying of cancer, and needed her help. Betsy’s leave of absence meant that her second graders would be losing their beloved teacher in mid-year, though gaining another very wonderful one. “It was excruciatingly heart-wrenching for all of us,” Betsy recalls, “It was January, though, and we had been focusing on courage. I started to talk with the children about the kind of courage it takes to make a change.” Betsy read her seven year-old students Jeanette Winter’s Klara’s New World, the story of a Swedish immigrant family leaving their beloved home country to start a new life in the new world (Minnesota). The story showed the sacrifice and heartbreak of leaving home behind, until finally the family’s new log cabin in the woods felt like home. “The children themselves drew the parallel of saying goodbye to our time together, and moving to a new situation – though with very grim little faces, I have to say.” But their unselfish response in this time of trouble was to want to do something for the sick mother. “They made her a banner, saying: We love you! I have never been prouder of them.”