Vernon Hills teacher's Wall of Virtues hopes to inspire students

  • The display features photos of students who are recognized on a weekly basis.

      The display features photos of students who are recognized on a weekly basis. Vince Pierri | Staff Photographer

Updated 6/7/2010 7:08 AM

Virtue is defined as moral excellence, goodness and righteousness.

Longtime Vernon Hills teacher Terry Thourson says he's not seeing much of that in kids these days.


Hoping to inspire young students to pursue behavioral high ground, the Hawthorn Elementary North physical education teacher created a Wall of Virtues at the Vernon Hills school. Students who exemplify those traits are listed in the display.

Thourson chose 27 possible virtues. They include the obvious, like kindness, courage and honesty. But Thourson went deeper by adding traits like industriousness, empathy and benevolence.

"I don't think many of these students even know what some of these words mean," he said. "But they should."

The weekly honors are given out to fourth- and fifth-graders and announced over the school's intercom.

The trophy-like case is mounted prominently in one of highest traffic areas at the school.

"I added fluorescent lights," Thourson said. "I really want to make this special."

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Thourson constructed the display this past February. He said the school district doesn't have a formal character program so he felt compelled to start his own, at least in a small way.

"I've seen such a lack of respect and bad manners, that I felt I wanted to do what I could to change those attitudes," he said.

The wall features photos of the students who were chosen along with the names of the virtues and their definitions. Thourson said he gets input from other staff members.

"It's not just me doing the choosing," he said. "I consult with other teachers and staff who make suggestions. If they see those students demonstrating these virtues, they let me know."

The first student to be recognized was Sarah Damianov. The fourth-grader was noted for humility.

"I like to cheer people up and help them any way I can," Damianov said. "I like to encourage people."

Thourson will retire this year after 32 years of teaching. He's hoping another teacher or staff member keeps the tradition going after he leaves. He believes it can make a difference.

"We read so much about bullying these days and we try and correct that behavior," Thourson said. "But instead of trying to change bad behavior we should try and model good behavior. That's what I'm hoping to do. I'm at least trying to raise awareness."