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Character Education Thrives in Pryor High School

Alexa Russell 11 October 2017 

After watching and discussing a video for the Global Day of Character on September 13th in one of his leadership classes, Pryor High School, or PHS, leadership teacher John Potter reflects on a time when prayer, a form of character education, was frequent in public schools. 

As the video produced by the Moxie Institute explained, character education was almost nonexistent for nearly 50 years in the late 20th century and early 2000s due to the fear of borderlining on religious teaching. However, as research materializes on the benefits of teaching universal morals like integrity, a newer generation is emerging that is no longer content with formal, strictly academic education. 

Pryor Public Schools is fortunate to have administrative staff, teachers, and volunteers that are willing to be a part of this new shift of education. 

The revival of character education that is sweeping the nation, as well as the world, did not occur overnight. PHS began what is know as the “whole-school transformation process,” creating a culture of empowerment based upon the idea that every student is a leader soon after the release of the Leader in Me curriculum in 2009. The process includes a variety of leadership training for learners and teachers alike. 

This year, Potter is picking up where former leadership teacher Evett Barham left off in the process. At the end of her teaching days, Barham had her students volunteering over 8,500 hours per semester in various community service projects, ranging from elementary “Walking Wednesdays” to making decorations for a local comic convention, all of which fall onto Potter and his team of student leaders’ shoulders. 

The hefty responsibility, though challenging, excites Potter, who worked as an 8th grade science teacher for the Pryor Public Schools district in addition to 25 years in public education across the country. Potter looks forwards to working with the leadership classes and getting to know the individuals as he strives to fulfill his goal of helping students “pinpoint. . .the character that is within them” by instilling his value of integrity into his lesson plans. 

“For me, being a man of integrity is having to model [doing our best]. . .in the things we do as students, as leadership, and as members of society,” states Potter. 

Along with his five leadership classes, Potter teaches an ethics course, a class that would have been a rarity 50 years ago but is now evidence of character education’s growth. Potter is simply one example of the leaders willing to rethink the education system to which the country has grown accustomed.

Senior leadership student Jamerica Landry sees this vision and will selflessly volunteer 50 hours each semester for her senior year. “I feel we are in this class to inspire people to want to be leaders in the community and around school,” explains Landry, and she isn’t the only one willing to take on the requirements of this class. 

Potter sees dozens of learners in his class everyday who are determined to make the most of the school year alongside him, a product of the realization that in order to compel good learners, school systems must first focus on cultivating good characters.




blue star moms picture

Mayes County Blue Star Mothers spoke with Pryor Public Schools LOFT (Leaders of Future Tigers) on Oct 5th. They shared the importance of the Blue Star Mothers projects and what they send to soldiers each month.