CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Diana Sutherland, a teacher at the Mineral County Alternative School, is the 2013 recipient of the Paul J. Morris Character Educator of the Year Award. The announcement was made Wednesday during the West Virginia Board of Education's April meeting.
Sutherland was honored for her creation of a character education class for middle school students at the alternative school, which serves at-risk and expelled students.
In the class, students are encouraged to talk freely about issues. Nothing is off limits for discussion. They dissect problems and find solutions. In addition, Sutherland works with Sarah's House, a program associated with the Burlington United Methodist Family Services that provides a formal anti-bullying component to the class.
"Research tells us that character education can have a positive effect on student performance," said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Jim Phares. "Students who develop strong character at an early age demonstrate responsibility for their academic performance, respect for others and respect for themselves. In today's global economy, learning responsibility and respect are as important as math and science skills."
Character education emphasizes trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, caring, citizenship, and fairness, traits that play important roles as children learn how to be global citizens and view the world through a moral lens.
"Diana models and personifies the pillars of character," said Kelli Wilson, Mineral County's assistant director of Curriculum and Instruction. "The students of Mineral County have learned and displayed these fine qualities due to Diana Sutherland's efforts. Diana becomes mentor, parent, friend, guardian, counselor, and moral compass for most of the students with whom she works, modeling the behaviors she strives to instill in her students."
The Paul J. Morris Character Educator of the Year Award is named after former West Virginia Board of Education member Paul Morris, who received the first Character Educator of the Year Award in 2003. Morris, who died in 2005, served on the state board for about 25 years.
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