Newsmakers, December 21, 2017

Air Date:
Heard On Newsmakers
Bridgett Hubbard, Marvin Wanders and John Norlin
Bridgett Hubbard, Marvin Wanders and John Norlin Hope Kirwan/WPR

High schools in more than 20 school districts in the La Crosse area started new classes this year that stress character and leadership.

The Character Lives program is the brainchild of leaders in the La Crosse business community who see it as an important way to foster future leaders in all walks of life.

“We’ve trained 75 high school teachers in the program. We purchased all the curriculum to get it into the school districts. Over the next three years, our goal would be to have over 1,000 staff members trained in this program within our region,” said Marvin Wanders, a La Crosse area businessman and co-founder of the nonprofit group Coulee Region Whole Child.

The program is based on CharacterStrong, a servant-leadership curriculum developed by educator and consultant John Norlin of Washington state.

“Research is not just suggesting, but showing, that if all we do is focus on end of the year test scores, we’re only giving kids half of what they need to be successful,” Norlin said. ” Then you start to bring in things like social-emotional learning and character development. They really are two things that are going side-by-side and should come together more.”

The curriculum teaches students about dozens of elements that make up someone of good character. Traits like kindness, forgiveness, respect and commitment.

Onalaska High School teacher Bridgett Hubbard started teaching a course this fall called principals of leadership based on Norlin’s curriculum.

“The concepts we teach on a daily basis. We all want our students to be patient, and be honest and be humble in terms of what they do on a daily basis,” she said. “But taking it, and putting it together in terms of how it works into the servant-leadership methods. It really brought everything together.”

Coulee Region Whole Child has a goal to raise $600,000 in the next three years to pay for teacher training and implementation so area school districts don’t have to come up with new money in their budgets to keep the program going.

– John Davis

Episode Credits

  • Hope Kirwan Host
  • John Davis Producer
  • Bridgett Hubbard Guest
  • John Norlin Guest
  • Marvin Wanders Guest