An hour on Friday keeps the principal away

Volunteer Shirley Anderson spends time with Tracy Elementary students every Friday as part of the school’s character education program.

By Per Peterson

If you want kids to know the importance of making the right decisions, call Shirley Anderson. She could surely share some anecdotes that would make an impact on young minds.
Anderson is a volunteer at Tracy Area High School’s character education program.
With so much attention focused these days on how well students are testing, Tracy Area Elementary continues to push a side of learning that isn’t required by the state, and Anderson brings a unique perspective to the school. The only volunteer for the program, Anderson, who works with the fourth- and fifth-graders, is a retired probation officer from Nevada and knows what bad decisions can mean for youth. She wants to help be a part of steering kids in the right direction at an early age.
“I know what the wrong decisions can do for your whole life,” she said. “If you don’t make good decisions, it can ruin your life. This is the perfect opportunity to work with kids on their character.”
Anderson also works with high school students.
“If we don’t do things like this, they just sit there in study hall or something, so this is important,” she said.
Every Friday for one hour, TES students put down the books and learn about things adults might take for granted — trains that, combined, help shape the overall character of an individual.
Organizing the existing character program was a goal of Michael Munson’s when he started as principal at Tracy Elementary School in 2014. The character program breaks the school into five groups: kindergarten, first grade, second and third grade, fourth and fifth grades, and sixth grade. The program runs on a rotation system. Kindergarten-through third grade, for example, does a three-group rotation: a book talk where a book is read, then discussed by the group; a video or YouTube; and an activity (role playing, discussion with props, word association, facial expressions).
“And we integrate other things in there, too,” Munson said. “We are doing our hand washing portion with our nurse right now, and that’s part of our activity portion. They have to uses black light to see how many germs they have on their hands after washing them.”

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.