Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson a role model at Amity Middle School
Middle School is celebrating the 10th year of students learning values through the example set by Jackie Robinson, the first African-American baseball player to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
Those values — all of which helped Robinson break that barrier — are: courage, determination, teamwork, persistence, integrity, citizenship, justice, commitment and excellence.
“For me, the kids have to learn math and English, but character is really as important in life as knowing the War of 1812,” said longtime guidance counselor Bobbie Miller. “We also need to train them to become the people we want them to be.”
The character education was crafted and honed through the years by the middle school staff from the spirit of the book “Jackie’s Nine,” written by Robinson’s daughter, Sharon Robinson. The book features real-life stories from Jackie Robinson and others who embody those qualities, including the late actor Christopher Reeve, who became paralyzed after a horseback riding accident.
Jackie Robinson was the first black player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
School psychologist Eric Bacik made the suggestion to create a framework from the book and the staff has made it blossom by holding school assemblies, weaving character into academic lessons, bringing in speakers who exemplify the qualities, and honoring four students from seventh and eighth grade who exemplify the quality being addressed that month.
School Principal Kathy Burke said she loves that it has become part of the culture of the school and has built a positive school atmosphere. She said students who get the recognition are “often surprised.” Recipients are recommended and chosen by staff after lots of meeting discussions and thought.
Eighth-grader Emma Kirck, 13, said she was delighted to be among those chosen for the first recognition category of the school year — teamwork.
“I think it’s important because it related to real-life values,” she said. “I think the school instilled these traits in us the minute we came in the building.”
Zoe May and Cassidy Smith, also eighth-graders and 13, think they got a boost for the certificate for helping separate friends who had injuries get around by carrying books, lunch boxes and sometimes backpacks. Zoe even did some tutoring to help her injured friend catch up on math.
“I felt proud of myself,” Cassidy said of receiving the honor.
The other eighth-grade student to receive the award was Jesse Palermo, 13, who said he likes that students are learning such values at a young age.
Seventh-grade students who received the award certificate for teamwork recently were: Anthony Lucibello, Michael Cortes, Erin Callahan and Devin Maroney.
Vicki Fielosh, special education teacher and resource team member, said Amity developed its character education plan based on Robinson long before he became a popular name with this generation through the movie “42.” Students have seen the movie through the years.
Fielosh said Robinson was not the best African-American baseball player of his time, but he was chosen to break the color barrier because of his character. She said students are told of the racial hurdles Robinson faced at the time.
As part of the character education that is constantly evolving, speakers are brought in throughout the year. For example, students have heard from alumni, including a military captain, BMX team members, cancer survivors, amputees and athletes.
“The kids benefit from stories of all walks of life,” Fielosh said. “Everyone had these traits within them and the ability (to have them emerge).”