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This Month's Best Practice

Each Month the Maryland Center for Character Education at Stevenson University (MCCE@SU) picks one of the Best Practices from a Character Education award winning school to share with you.


This month's Best Practices is from an award winning school from 2016 - 2017.




School: Bel Air Middle

Address: 99 Idlewild Street, Bel Air, MD 21014
Principal: Natalie Holloway
E-Mail: Natalie.Holloway@hcps.org

Phone: 410-638-4140


Character Ed. Contact: Patricia Bales

E-Mail: patricia.bales@hcps.org


Primary Principles Emphasized: 2, 3, 8, & 11


Principle 2: Defines “Character” comprehensively to include thinking, feeling, and doing


As the character education program at Bel Air Middle has evolved, we have created new lessons and initiatives based on student feedback. All stakeholders at BAMS are involved in what is taught during our weekly Panther Period lesson time (30 minutes once per week).

This year, our lessons included:
Cyber Safety - Lessons were created to be taught school-wide. Tips for staying safe while online and on social media as well as how to protect your identity on the internet were taught. Students learned about copyright and cyber security.

Organization and Time Management - This school wide lesson gave students specific strategies to use in order to be more successful in school. They rated activities in order of most to least important and were given organizational strategies for their notebooks and planners.

Motivation and Study skills - The 8th grade students created lessons that they taught the 6th and 7th grade students. This process involved a lot of coordination but also gave students responsibility for their own learning.

Random Acts of Kindness - Students learned about what it means to perform random acts of kindness. As a school-wide activity, the students were asked to create a card for a patient at a local veteran’s hospital or for a sick child at Johns Hopkins hospital. Students made well over 1000 cards for these agencies and they were mailed to the recipients.

New Year’s Resolutions (6th and 7th grade) - This lesson was taught in January as students reflected on how they can show PRIDE (Positive, Respectful, Independent, Determined, and Engaged) at school as well as at home. There was individual as well as group reflections about things to work to improve over the next several months left of the school year.

High School Preparation (8th grade) - The transition to high school is anxiety filled for our eighth graders. We spent two weeks talking about this change in environment. The first lesson included a group discussion about what students were most concerned about high school. Each homeroom came up with a list of questions for high school students. The second week, we collaborated with our high school and had 2-3 high school students in each of the eighth grade homerooms. The list of questions was compiled and the high school students eased the mind of the transitioning freshmen. They also presented a PowerPoint that they had created describing a typical day in the life of a high school student.

Perseverance and Determination (7th grade) - Our 7th graders sometime feel some confusion as they go through lots of changes. This lesson had students brainstorm specific ways to persevere in the face of adversity or when things become difficult. They examined quotes and watched a video (Caine’s Arcade) in order to watch another young person’s struggle to stick with something in order for it to be successful.

Acceptance and Tolerance (all grades) - Students were asked to examine their own possible biases and recognize the impact that they can have on their relationships. In addition, strategies of coping with being judged or if someone is unkind to you were presented.

Pillars of Character (6th grade) - Our first year of character education was built around the Pillars of Character. This year, the 7th and 8th graders were already familiar with these attributes because our student recognition tickets as well as the lessons were focused on them. We compiled the lessons that were taught over an entire year into one cohesive lesson to introduce students to what character is and how it can be measured.


Principle 3: Uses a comprehensive, intentional, proactive, and effective approach to character development


Bel Air Middle School has implemented:
* Weekly lesson time that is designated for character education. During this time, lessons that have been created by our PBIS/character education team are taught.

* PRIDE tickets which students earn if they demonstrate being Positive, Respectful, Independent, Determined, or being Engaged. This year, we had over 4,000 of these tickets written for students. We also have community donations which we use as prizes for our drawings. Our tickets are carbon copies so that students take one that they can spend at the PRIDE store and one is sent to the office for data collection.

Positive Office Referrals are written for students who go above and beyond or who have made a big improvement with academic performance and/or behavior. These students earn a certificate as well as a phone call home by an administrator.

*Student committee - The student committee has been crucial in planning lessons, pep rallies, and prizes for students. These students include diverse representatives from all three grade levels.

Pep Rally - There was one pep rally to kick off the year with PRIDE. Students and faculty were involved in games. We had guest speakers, motivational team-building games, prize drawings, and school spirit

*Staff recognition - In order to ensure that everyone in the building is demonstrating good character, students and other staff members recognize the adults working in the building. We include cafeteria workers, custodians, administrators, classroom teachers, librarians, special education aids, and unified arts teachers.

*Pre-PARCC Teamwork Tuesday - All students and staff participated in a day of teambuilding. Each team of teachers and students had flexibility in how this was presented. Some teams incorporated test taking strategies and team building activities within their normal curriculum. Teams took the entire day and spent time outside playing games, discussing teamwork and motivation, and reviewing testing helpful hints. There were trivia questions and Prizes throughout the day over the announcements. Our PBIS student team aided in making advertisements and writing announcements to be made in the week leading up to the day.


Principle 8: Engages the school staff as a learning and moral community that shares responsibility for character education and attempts to adhere to the same core values that guide the education of students.


Faculty at BAMS is expected to demonstrate our PRIDE characteristics. This year, we had a new initiative which included some ideas from Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud. Each faculty member was given a bucket at the welcome back meetings in the fall. Teachers brought the bucket to every faculty meeting. Teachers wrote recognition cards for each other and students wrote cards for teachers and staff. In addition to receiving positive messages, administration filled the bucket at each meeting with a treat (candy, fruit, a pencil/pen).

Teachers are given raffle tickets from administrators when they are “caught” doing something positive. During each faculty meeting, there is a drawing for a prize. Prizes this year have included restaurant gift cards, school supplies, community member donations from small businesses, lunch ordered on a Friday, and an extra planning period for a day.

Principle 11: Evaluates the character of the school, the school’s staff functioning as character educators, and the extent to which students manifest good character.

Bel Air Middle School includes character education into the School Improvement Plan. This enables everyone to be more vested in the initiative. Each and every staff person at the school is assigned to a classroom during our character lessons. Administrators, physical education, music, special education, etc. teachers all participate in delivering the instruction. This process has had a positive impact on the culture and character of the school. Each staff member writes PRIDE tickets and participates in the lessons. In addition, teachers try whenever possible to include discussion into their own curriculum about how to demonstrate PRIDE. Language Arts teachers have had character analysis considering the characteristics or PRIDE. Physical education teachers talk about being positive, respectful, and engaged on a daily basis as they differentiate their instruction for their students. Social studies teachers discuss how things in history have not followed our PRIDE expectations and asked students to come up with possible solutions. As a cross-curricular, school-wide program, students are infused with character education on a daily basis. We constantly analyze data, including both positive and negative referrals as well as the number and characteristic of PRIDE tickets written, teacher recognitions, and student attendance.


The Maryland Center for Character Education at Stevenson University
School of Education, 1525 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, MD 21153

E-Mail: MCCEcharacter@aol.com