CHARACTER COUNTS! Around the World

In the weeks leading up to the Character Education Partnership’s annual conference (Oct. 30 – Nov. 2 in Washington, D.C.), we have been looking at exemplary character education programs at schools around the United States. In today’s post, senior CHARACTER COUNTS! trainer Dr. Gary Smit shows how people outside the 50 states have embraced CC!. Gary has played a significant part here by conducting training workshops and Character Development Seminars in Puerto Rico and throughout Latin America.

At this year’s CEP conference, Gary will conduct a session on “How Intentional Teaching of Character Helps Achieve Common Core Goals,” which presents information from his most recent book, Instilling Touchstones of Character – Connecting What Matters with Common Core and 21st Century Skills.

Learn more about the CEP conference and save your spot here.

By Gary Smit

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Students at a school in Puerto Rico walk past a display of the Six Pillars in Spanish.

Many people know that the CHARACTER COUNTS! initiative is the most widely implemented approach to character education in the nation, reaching millions of youth. What is less widely known is that CHARACTER COUNTS! has expanded to schools and communities outside the continental United States. International attendees have always been part of our stateside Character Development Seminars, but in the past few years we have been asked to train educators in other countries on how to implement CHARACTER COUNTS!.

The training experiences outside of the continental United States really began with our work in Puerto Rico, which adopted CHARACTER COUNTS! in hundreds of schools across the island. The CHARACTER COUNTS initiative — or Tus Valores Cuentan as it is known in Puerto Rico — was coordinated by 34 master trainers, each working with 10-12 schools as a facilitator of character development. I supervised these trainers as they led a CDS for school champions, trained school faculty with one-day in-service programs, created student leadership workshops, conducted parent seminars and coordinated the work of assessment.

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A CHARACTER COUNTS! assembly at Colegio Ingles Americano in Monterrey, Mexico.

CHARACTER COUNTS! has also taken hold in Colombia. We started there with a training at Karl C. Parrish School in Barranquilla. Over the course of two school years, I conducted multiple two-day training sessions for teachers, support staff and parents in Barranquilla. That led to the establishment of CHARACTER COUNTS! Colombia, which now provides Character Development Seminars to schools throughout the country. The most recent CDS occurred in September and was attended by six different Colombian Schools, both private and public. In all, 15 schools in Colombia have now received training.

Colombia isn’t the only Latin American country involved in our implementation efforts. I have also conducted trainings in Quito, Ecuador, and just last month the Escola Americana in Rio de Janeiro hosted CHARACTER COUNTS! training workshops. The three days of training involved a workshop for teachers, two parent presentations, student character development work at grades 4-5, 6-8 and high school, and a planning session with administrators and counselors. On the island of Bermuda, we’ve conducted CHARACTER COUNTS! training and workshops on our Pursuing Victory With Honor sportsmanship program. And just a few weeks ago, a one-day training for 118 educators was given at Colegio Ingles Americano in Monterrey, Mexico.

CC! founder Michael Josephson with participants at a CHARACTER COUNTS! training in Lagos, Nigeria.
CC! founder Michael Josephson with participants at a CHARACTER COUNTS! training in Lagos, Nigeria.

A few years ago, CHARACTER COUNTS! founder Michael Josephson and I brought CC! to Nigeria with two CDS trainings in Lagos, where more than 40 different private schools were represented.

Having conducted training programs around the U.S. as well as abroad, I find it interesting that the issues and challenges are not much different wherever I go. Regardless of the country, the training offered by CHARACTER COUNTS! is what’s needed to transform the culture of a school or organization. What the schools find is that CHARACTER COUNTS! can be a comprehensive, integrated values-based school improvement and student development system that results in improved academic achievement, more well-managed classrooms and a better school climate overall.

No matter where a training is held, there are similarities in what teachers would like to see in terms of instilling more positive values in students and reducing negative attitudes. Many times, teachers in other countries have not had the level of professional development that teachers in the United States have enjoyed. As a result, there is great demand for practical tools and strategies to teach, enforce, advocate and model good character in the classroom and across the campus.

It’s gratifying to see the enthusiasm and engagement of educators outside the U.S. as they learn how to integrate CHARACTER COUNTS! into their instruction and throughout their schools. CHARACTER COUNTS! has given them the power to help change the lives of young people by intentionally instilling the qualities and traits that define people of good character.


Before becoming a senior member of the CHARACTER COUNTS! training faculty, Dr. Gary Smit served as a teacher, principal and school superintendent in Illinois. His most recent book, Instilling Touchstones of Character – Connecting What Matters with Common Core and 21st Century Skills, is available in the CC! online store here.