Ongoing character education curriculum infuses kindness in all academic and co-curricular programs

students with kindness signs

kindnessMinisink Valley’s character education curriculum supports the robust academic, athletic and co-curricular programs offered and available throughout the school year and features one constant element: It’s important to be kind.

“Character education is an extremely important in today’s world,” said Superintendent Brian Monahan. “We know, and research supports this, that how a young person acts helps define their success in school and their eventual careers. We want our students to exude the important traits of empathy, compassion, gratitude, kindness and generosity in all they do in school, at home and in their communities.”

Board of Education President Joseph Flaherty commended faculty and staff for their ongoing commitment to innovative character education.

“Teaching is a hard job,” he said. “Your Board of Education is consistently impressed with the caliber of inventiveness and creativity that our faculty and staff employ when incorporating character education in the rigorous academic curriculum offered at Minisink Valley. We believe this ensures that our students will not only be college and career ready, but prepared for success in life because how you treat others matters.”

Mr. Flaherty also stressed the Board of Education has a commitment to promote an atmosphere valuing Minisink Valley’s diversity, which also supports a learning environment respectful of all students, staff and community members and maximizes each student’s academic achievement and success.

teacher with bucket filler bookThe district’s schools infuse character education in many ongoing ways. For example, Otisville Elementary’s school-wide bucket filler initiative reinforces the importance of being kind to others.

“The bucket represents a person’s mental and emotional self,” said Principal Julia Downey. “A bucket filler is someone who says or does nice things for other people. ‘Bucket filling’ is a term that has become a popular metaphor in education when talking about positive attitudes, behavior, feelings and emotions. Bucket-fillers are people who act in a way that fills another person’s bucket, and refers to those who practice kindness and good behavior.”

student with bucket artworkShe added: “By being kind and caring, students have the ability to help fill the buckets of their peers and to better understand how they have an impact on the way that others feel. These are important social and emotional skills for students to know. Once they begin to fully understand this concept, they clearly see how their words and actions can contribute to the good mental health and wellbeing of others in addition to themselves.”

girls with kindness smile signsThe Middle School’s Minisink Motivates Club’s mission is to spread kindness to the Middle School community. While working on various activities to spread kindness throughout the school students, teachers and staff, the club takes time to learn and practice self-care that students can take with them to use whenever they need to do so.

Advisors Lauren Pullen and Katie Blydenburgh were inspired by, and have adopted Maddie Richardson’s motto: “Today is a new day with a new opportunity to make your world a better place.”

students at Otisville“We are looking for any new members in the middle school who want to help us create and implement new ideas that will spread kindness throughout our building and community,” Mrs. Pullen added.

Students have created book marks, greeting cards, chalk messages, lawn signs and much more, including visits to Otisville Elementary to read to students about anti-bullying and kindness as part of an intra-school partnership.

“We hope to continue this tradition and help encourage kindness throughout the entire Minisink district,” Mrs. Blydenburgh said.

students with kindness signs Other intra-school partnerships include the recent relationships between the High School, Intermediate School and Elementary School to reinforce the importance of kindness. Intermediate School Kindness Ambassadors recently visited the Elementary School to present a lesson on kindness, part of the conclusion of Kindness Week and the Great Kindness Challenge, where kids were challenged to do as many kind acts as possible.  As part of that, the High School “Media Production” classes edited the ambassadors’ pre-recorded books which focused on kindness. These recordings were shown to the Elementary students as part of the lesson. Later, Elementary School students completed a kindness project.

kindness chains with studentsFaculty look to infuse kindness concepts with seasonality as well.  As another example, sixth grade teachers Ashley Beairsto, Jaclyn Lockett, Samantha Wetzel and classroom aide Debbie Orrio organized a kindness holiday activity where students earned links daily for acts of kindness, coming to class prepared and completing assignments on time.

“Students were very excited and motivated to earn their links and focused on kindness to others during the holiday season, said Mrs. Beairsto. “They assembled their chains throughout the month and then joined all of their acts of kindness together to create a kindness chain that wrapped around the entire sixth grade wing and down the main hallway of the middle school. It was great for the students to realize how small acts of kindness and being prepared can add up to make such a big difference.”

At times, the simplest acts of kindness are when staff look to put smiles on the faces of students.

woman in front of white boardEvery school day, Intermediate/Elementary School custodian Melissa Myruski writes a special joke on the IS/ES cafeteria’s white board for students to see when they come for lunch.  The younger students particularly enjoy her funny jokes and puns and sometimes come up to the board and read them out loud.

At other times, class projects focus on reinforcing the importance of kindness, such as when students with postersErin Todd’s Elementary School second-graders created posters to share their ideas of what kindness means. The ELA/art lesson was intended to show them that acts of kindness increase feelings of well-being.

Minisink Valley’s Facebook page also spotlights students’ kindness through its “MV Kindness” initiative, MV Kindnessknowing students are involved in many acts of kindness in the district’s  schools and community. The kindness of students and groups of students are shared because the district believes kindness is contagious.

Recent spotlights included the sixth grade students of Ashley Beairsto and Deb Orrio, who collected food, clothing and toiletries to be donated to the Veterans Service Agency and distributed to local veterans; and who made holiday cards for the local veterans at Castle Point and Valley View Nursing Home; and Middle School Pet Club students, who recently completed a very students with kindness cupssuccessful Pet Supply Drive benefiting three local rescue shelters.

Additionally, other examples of recent spotlighted students and student groups include the high school’s Future Business Leaders of America, who  made Valentine’s cards for seniors.  The High School’s Youth Against Cancer Club made and distributed cards and candy to patients and staff at the Spagnoli Cancer Center at Garnet Hospital in Middletown for St. Patrick’s Day; and the High School’s National Honor Society, who, in honor of the national Random Acts of Kindness initiative, created “Cups of Kindness.” They decorated cups with inspirational kind messages and filled the cups with hot cocoa, chocolate and candy canes.  During lunch periods, students gave out the cups in exchange for another kindness message to be written on a Post-It note to be placed on students’ lockers.

Submissions to “MV Kindness” can be sent to

“We look to our families to support our work in the classroom by reinforcing these important traits and reinforce that simple acts of kindness can make a huge difference in someone’s life,” added Superintendent Monahan. “Being aware of the needs and feelings of others is a critical ingredient in becoming a person of character, which is a factor in lifetime success.”