Character Counts Training Benefits Teachers and School

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Character Counts Coach Gary Smith presents the program to staff members.

Ambar Alvarez and Tomas Galeano

A training for staff and parents for Character Counts was held in The Gallery January 25-26.

This year’s training was focused on the 6.0 certification, which was made 1 year ago but only taught this year. The certificate involved the impact of covid on students and teachers, and how the world has changed since the 5.0 certification.

“The Character Counts program was really difficult to do over Zoom, but this program matters to us. We care about it. Let’s focus on why we need this, and the training really brought that “why” back to the school. The purpose was to bring back the pillars we forgot in Zoom,” William Pulgarin, Middle School Principal, said.

Gary Smith and Scott Raker were the certified coaches in charge of the training, but Raker got COVID and was unavailable. Smith was directing 6.0 certification and Raker’s topics will be discussed at the next training in August.

“The 6.0 certification of Character Counts is an updated version from past certifications, but the main difference from past ones and this is that since the pandemic started school life has changed drastically. Even though pillars are the same, the way we want to implement them needs to develop,” Juliana Sarmiento, TCS Training Coordinator, said.

The new Character Counts program aims to engage the students in the social-emotional learning strategy, where topics like the effect on students and teachers from the pandemic transition are worked on. This strategy focuses on relations and connections created between Staff and Kid, and the importance on daily school life.

“These types of relations make a difference when you’re at school. That is something that we’re trying to talk about how can we make sure that our students have at least one positive connection with one adult,” Pulgarin said.

This year 25 to 30 people attended. There were two teachers each from Early Years, Elementary, Middle School, and High School along with all the principals, parents, and the Social-Emotional committee.

“I believe that the program should be implemented in the entire school because otherwise, it’s just a waste. It should be everybody does it from K4 all the way up through 12,” Martina Calhoun, Grade 6 English teacher, said.

All of the staff members that attended needed to fill out a survey to participate, various teachers, applied and weren’t eligible because of the number of spots available. The school has a budget for a specific number of people.

“I’ve had other programs like this, depending on what the cost is and how exactly it’s implemented in the school. So like, I know we use it in middle school. So if we see that it is beneficial to the whole school, then it’s, you know, priceless,” Calhoun said.

The Character Counts program has been implemented in school for eight years. Every year a certified coach from the US comes to the school to update the training for staff members and parents.

“I think that’s one of the best parts of the Columbus School that we have this program. We have a lot of support from the parents. The students also enjoy the program. I feel like it’s part of the DNA at the Columbus school,” Pulgarin said.