UNION, NJ – Jefferson School has been named a 2020 National School of Character and a 2020 New Jersey School of Character.  The distinctions, from the New Jersey Alliance for Social, Emotional, and Character Development, were scheduled to be celebrated at the 2020 Annual Conference, but the pandemic caused the conference to be canceled. 

“I like that all the teachers teach us with respect and it makes us feel like we have an important role too,” said Jefferson School student Joana.  “The school helps to make sure we are healthy and makes sure we have a good life.”

“One of the most rewarding changes is the sense of accountability and the pride students take in themselves and in their school,” said teacher Danielle Jurgens.  “With the character education implementation you see confusion transform into determination and apathy turn into leadership. The sense of community is contagious and the connection between school and home is stronger than ever before. Parents are reinforcing core values at home and they are proud participants in helping their child find his or her voice.”

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Through the Leader in Me program, Jefferson School has transformed student lives by extensively emphasizing character education in novel ways.  The staff is viewed as “paparazzi” observing their subjects.  They believe that change begins with themselves and make certain they observe the tenets of the Leader of Me program.  In a newly-established leadership period, students learn habits of good character and also use this time to participate in various committees, thus taking on leadership roles.  Community outreach is featured at fun monthly activities such as Socktober or preparing for Leadership Day.

“The staff members at Jefferson Elementary school promote character education by modeling exemplary character traits, by encouraging and praising good character in students, and by incorporating the 7 habits from the Leader in Me program into classroom management strategies,” said Jefferson School nurse Gayle Sumner.

“The best part of Jefferson Elementary School is the sense of caring and family you feel right when you walk in the door,” said parent Erin Orsini.  “Going to a new school with new faces and new expectations is hard, especially when you are only 10. The care and support the staff has for their students on day one is unmatched by any other school experience I've had. This love and support also continues onto sports fields and way after students have moved onto their respective middle schools.”

“Jefferson School affords the children opportunities to learn life lessons,” said Union Board of Education President Nancy Minneci.  “Cultures are blended, opportunities to understand other religions, traditions, ethnicities. Questions can be asked and answered without fear of embarrassment. It is a place for our children to feel safe and accepted, they teach our children tolerance, kindness, respect and one of the most important skills is acceptance of others. This filters out into home and then into the community, building a better community for us all.”

“Your accomplishments and your volunteerism have made a positive difference in your schools and I truly believe that this work has been of benefit in dealing with the challenges of learning remotely in this time of social distancing,” said William H. Trusheim, President (NJASECD).  “We have seen many instances of our schools' efforts to stay connected with their students, and I do believe this has been an important ingredient in helping to manage this unprecedented challenge to education.”