Strengthening Valley students' hearts and minds

FRESNO, Calif.

Experts say the heart of a student is just as important as their mind. Several key speakers taught a crowd of student-teachers how to weave character, ethics and behavior into their lesson plans in the classroom. Fresno State credential student Jennifer Beeler has received some of the best training in the state when it comes to working with students in the classroom, but today she and hundreds of others are getting schooled in a different type of teaching.

Beeler said, "In some of our classes, we're talking about instruction and how to teach academics, here it's focusing on the heart and soul part of education and learning how to give morale education to students which is really important."

It's called character and civic education.

For the 29th year the Kremen School of Education and Human Resources is hosting hundreds of students from Fresno State and Fresno Pacific University to teach them how to help their students work together by using a common language of core ethical values that transcend religious, political and socio-economic differences.

"I don't think there is any more powerful role right now than teachers and how they can influence their students' lives," one person said.

Among the keynote speakers at the two day event is Doctor Michele Borba, an internationally-recognized expert on children, parenting and morale development.

Borba said, "We need to make sure we're raising our students to have hearts as well as minds, it's the backbone of civility, it's the backbone of citizenship and we're actually finding a nosedive in our children, particularly in empathy."

As part of the program students can chose from dozens of workshops on topics including gangs, suicidal behavior and the dropout dilemma facing California schools.

Fresno State Professor Dr. Jacques Benninga said, "We're emphasizing all kinds of cyber and technology abuse and we're focusing on bullying and issues like that."

Issues many of these future teachers will face when they enter the working world.

As part of the program 14 middle schools from all over the Valley were recognized for their programs and two teachers including James Kusserow of Tulare County and Deborah Brown of Madera County were named teachers of the year.

The conference continues Saturday at Fresno State.

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