Alumna’s Creative Program Receives International Award

For more information, contact Barb Steadman - 843.857.4199

HARTSVILLE, S.C. – June 6, 2012 – The Red Tie Club, an innovative new program developed by Coker College alumna Dawn Walker, has netted her school a Promising Practices Award, an international recognition announced last week by the Character Education Partnership (CEP).

Walker, who was selected by her colleagues as the 2012-13 Teacher of the Year at Timrod Elementary School in Florence, S.C., launched the program for fifth and sixth grade boys – leaders of their school – as a way to replace disruptive behavior with exemplary comportment. To help support the program and related initiatives, she has won three grants in the past two years.

“I've been honored to receive these recognitions,” said Walker. “Truth be told, however, the awards rightly belong to the many who have helped create the Red Tie Club, including our students, teachers and staff, my principal and the community. Leading by example, our principal, Carol Schweitz, consistently encourages teachers by going the extra distance to help students succeed and by always being willing to try new programs.”

The Red Tie Club was highlighted in Johns Hopkins University’s “Promising Partnership Practices 2011” and was recently selected for a new publication titled “Sampler: Improve Student Behavior with Family and Community Involvement” that will showcase a decade of the National Network of Partnership Schools’ best ideas.

Dr. Joyce Epstein, director of the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University, applauded, in particular, the emphasis the club places on positive student leadership and service activities in the community.

“The Red Tie Club at Timrod Elementary School in Florence demonstrates a positive and effective way to encourage and reinforce good behavior,” Epstein said. “With community partners and with teachers’ and parents’ support, students are gaining communication and social skills, conducting useful projects in their community, building contacts with adults in business and governmental positions and learning that leadership and good behavior are rewarded in school, at home and in the community.”

The strategy for the program emerged out of a brainstorming conversation of Timrod’s Action Committee for the school’s work with the National Networks of Partnership Schools. The Committee members saw the idea of giving the club members red ties – which, in business and politics, are often associated with leadership and strong decision-making skills – as a way to help students see themselves as the leaders they aspire to become.

The program includes biweekly meetings to discuss topics that develop character and leadership skills based on core values such as manners, honesty, consideration and determination.  Students are also asked to keep logs throughout the year to keep a personal record of examples of positive behavior.

“The Red Tie Club focuses on helping students see that every choice has a consequence, and we want them to make the positive choices,” explained Walker. “Once they reach middle school, they have tough decisions to make, and we hope they will take a part of the Red Tie Club with them as they are faced with many challenging choices in life.”

Both last year and this year, the club invited a number of speakers to join their meetings, including local figures such as the chief of police, mayor and other prominent community leaders who offered advice and related personal experiences to encourage and motivate the students.  At the end of each year, the student members hosted a banquet to present highlights from the year-long experience.  South Carolina State Senator Kent Williams spoke at this year’s banquet.  Next year, which will be the program’s third year, the school plans to add a component for girls.

“Dawn is a highly gifted person with a wide range of interests,” said Coker College Professor of Education Sara Odom, who was Walker’s advisor.  “I am amazed by how much she has accomplished.  I believe that her personal struggles as a hearing-impaired person have likely contributed to her ability to identify with the needs of others.”

“We could not be more proud of her,” Odom added.

A stay-at-home mother of twins who were one when she enrolled at Coker College, Walker was a member of Kappa Delta Pi, an honorary society for education professionals, earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education through Coker’s Adult Learners Program for Higher Achievement (ALPHA) in 2008. She graduated with a 4.0 cumulative grade-point average and was awarded the College’s Alumni Cup. She joined Florence School District One in 2009.

“Professors at Coker were truly awesome. They really encouraged me to develop my own teaching style. I remember Dr. Odom specifically saying, ‘sometimes you need to listen to your students—hear what they're saying,’” said Walker.

“I found that students had quite a story to tell—and in many cases they don't know what we expect of them in terms of character.  They need good examples to follow, and having the volunteers from the community come to speak to the club members has not only provided great mentors to them, it has inspired them to go places in their lives,” she said.

Last year, Walker completed a master’s in education from Francis Marion University.  She also has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religion from Emory University, which she earned in 1996.

“CEP sponsors the annual program to showcase innovative best practices that are having an impact across the nation and abroad,” said Lisa Greeves, who manages the program.

Winning practices were selected from applications from schools, districts and organizations from across the United States, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong and Mexico.

Recipients of the 2012 Promising Practices Award will be formally recognized at the 19th National Forum on Character Education to be held in Washington, D.C., Nov. 1-3.

An umbrella organization based in Washington, D.C., CEP is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan, nonsectarian coalition of organizations and individuals committed to fostering effective character education in our nation’s schools.  Its mission is to serve as the leading resource for people and organizations that are integrating character education into their schools and communities.

Information about the Red Tie Club is available on the Web site of the National Network of Partnership Schools,  Follow the link to the Samplers from the homepage.


Coker College readies undergraduates for personal and professional success through a distinctive four-year program that emphasizes a practical application of the liberal arts as well as hands-on and discussion-based learning within and beyond the classroom. Coker is ranked among the “Best Colleges” in the South by U.S. News & World Report as well as The Princeton Review. Located in Hartsville, S.C., Coker is within two hours of the cultural, financial and recreational resources of Charlotte, Columbia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach.


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