Erin Schulte believes the secret to a successful learning environment is the right mix of academic, emotional and physical stimulation. Schulte, an educational psychology doctoral student at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, is a guidance counselor at Parkway North High School in west St. Louis County.
Her passion for infusing character education into each classroom led her to the doctoral program at UMSL. And her inspiration for her dissertation topic sprung from her own interest in yoga.
“Working in education I could see very quickly that we are responsible to teach kids more than just academic subjects,” Schulte said. “We also have to help them understand how to be good people. Sometimes they get this at home as well, but unfortunately that is not always the case. I also noticed very quickly that if a student does not have a personal need met, it is very difficult for them to concentrate on academics. I do not believe the two can be separate. As educators we have to understand the needs of the whole child.”
After incorporating yoga into her own life, she thought her students could also benefit from it. She become certified as a yoga instructor and created a class at the high school where students could participate.
“I plan to start this next school year and track data on the happiness of the students who participate,” said Schulte, who earned her master’s degree in school counseling from UMSL in 2008 and was the inaugural recipient of the Adolph and Carol Frank Character Scholarship in the College of Education at UMSL.
The scholarship was presented to Schulte in December from the Center for Character and Citizenship in the College of Education at UMSL. In addition to the $1,500 scholarship, Schulte received an engraved plaque.
“It is such an unbelievable honor,” Schulte said. “To hear great things about myself from people that I look up to and highly respect means so much to me. It has motivated me to continue to work hard until I am finished with this dissertation.”
She said she’s thankful to UMSL and the amazing professors she’s had.
“I can’t say enough good things about the program. I think the greatest thing that I’ve received in this particular program are professors that truly care about me as a student and a person,” Schulte said. “My adviser, Marvin Berkowitz (the Sanford N. McDonnell Endowed Professor of Education at UMSL), meets with me each week one on one to discuss my progress on my dissertation. We joke that he has become my ‘dissertation father.’ He is a true example of all of the things he teaches about character education.”
Berkowitz echoes the sentiment about Schulte.
“Erin is very bright and is a genuinely caring and honest young woman – a really good soul,” he said. “She is moving quickly through the program and is now finishing up her final classes. Not surprisingly, her performance in her classes is also exemplary.”
The Adolph and Carol Frank Character Education Scholarship was established by Bob Frank, a UMSL friend and supporter of character education, in honor of his parents. Frank said his parents taught him that telling the truth is always better than any alternative.
“In high school, I was caught reading a book that contains some dirty words,” Frank said. “My mother told me I had to tell my father, and when I did, I needed to make sure I told him everything. Later that night, I confessed and my father explained to me that he wasn’t going to punish me because I came forward. This is just one example of the type of people Adolph and Carol Frank were.”
After learning about the Center for Character and Citizenship in the College of Education at UMSL, and the work the center does – through its directors, Berkowitz and Wolfgang Althof, the Teresa M. Fischer Endowed Professor of Citizenship Education – Frank decided the best way to honor his parents was through keeping their beliefs going.
“We learned that good things happen to good people and that people who help others are good people,” he said. ” I can’t think of anything more fitting to represent their high values than to establish a scholarship program in character education in their memory.”
The Center for Character and Citizenship opened in 2006 and operates several programs including the Leadership Academy in Character Education, Youth Empowerment in Action and the Citizenship Education Clearing House. The center is housed in the College of Education and is a part of the Des Lee Collaborative Vision.