SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Character Education is an essential part of the daily routine throughout South Plainfield Schools and, at Kennedy Elementary, students are working to help a new ‘friend’ be a more respectful, caring, and responsible ‘member’ of the community. 

Back in October, South Plainfield Police Officer Zach Melanson brought his new ‘friend’ – a tiger – to Kennedy and, during a school wide assembly, explained how the tiger was being disrespectful and asked the students to take on the task of teaching the tiger how to be a better citizen. 

“At Kennedy School, our focus is on character and that’s why Officer Zach brought him here,” said Principal Kevin Hajduk, noting that the goal is for the tiger to come to the school as much as possible. “The whole point is to teach the tiger good behavior… The kids have to train the tiger to be a better citizen and, at the same, be good role models for not only the tiger but others.”

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According to Hajduk, the character education initiative with the tiger is also being incorporated into the curriculum with select students in each grade working together to write a literary piece about its visit, what he is doing, and how they are teaching it to be a better citizen. 

Additionally, at the start of the 2019-2020 school year, Kennedy launched a new Character Education initiative. Each month, the focus is on a different character trait with the goal of helping students make good choices and be more respectful. A quote focusing on the month’s character trait is read during morning announcements and, over the course of the month, students can earn T.I.G.E.R. Bucks from teachers, staff and Hajduk for exemplifying behaviors that fit the Character Ed theme; T.I.G.E.R. stands for ‘Today I will give Everyone and Everything Respect.’ 

On Nov. 22, December’s character ed trait ‘caring’ was introduced during a school wide assembly and those students who exemplified November’s ‘gratitude’ trait were recognized. Congratulations to Kaevyn Kenny-MacLean, Avery Twal, Ben Walezak, Lndsay Czerwinski, Sofia Torres, Derek Oller, Mia Urquia-Suazo, Zaraya Browne, Mason England, Scarlett Contreras, Sophia Paterson, Madalyn Cortese, Sophia Salvatore, Jayden Rivera, Bryan Escobar, and Julia Fortunato. 

October’s ‘respect’ trait recipients were recognized on October 25 and included Austin Kuebler, Jackie Zhang, Taylor Vetesy, Gianna Morales, Madelyn Leiman, Kinley Kenny-MacLean, Madelyn Loomis, Alexis Sienkiewicz, Nolan Belt, Liana Canarte,  Santiago Matias, Sean Dempsey, Alianna Belt, Ava Valuzzi, Ximara De la Riva Cruz, Bihan Sarkar, and Preston Osuoha

“By recognizing students within the school each month, it portrays to the students that the staff is always watching and noticing good character.  At times, children believe they should be rewarded every time that they do something well.  This is not always possible or even good for child development. As a school, we reinforce the concept that our students should ‘do the right thing, even when you think someone isn’t looking,’” said Hajduk, adding, “In order to sustain a positive culture at Kennedy School, our students are learning that developing good character within the school will eventually lead to being a good role model for others in our great community.”

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