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School of Graduate and Professional Studies

Character Education Certificate

Character Education Certificate

The CCSD 93 Certificate cohort has launched. No future cohorts for the Certificate are planned. 


Goals of the Certificate Program:

  • Foster a school culture of character that is caring, empowering and inclusive for students and school staff
  • Infuse social emotional learning and character development into the school culture
  • Empower educators to be lifelong learners
  • Tackle equity through a commitment to foster student and staff potential
  • Teach students how to form good character traits such as kindness, honesty, & respect for both their classmates and school leaders

The Online Experience

  • 100% online and asynchronous
  • Three, five-week modules
  • Two to three hours of structured content and activities per week
  • Weekly engagement with instructor and peers
  • Modules are intended to be taken in sequence

"Character education is something we really need to address in our school with our current students and climate.  My coworkers and I in the course are talking about creating a club that begins to delve into it. The weekly activities gave me a great jumpstart for beginning to implement this content in my classroom and our school."  Christine Levernier, Naperville 203

Ideal for the following groups

  • School Principals, Assistant Principals, Teacher Leaders, and Educational Specialists 
  • Members of teams or committees addressing school culture and climate
  • District office administrative staff 

“The program really emphasized SEL and how it overlaps with Character Education. While it was completely online, the interaction with colleagues was robust. I felt like I really got to know them and gained a deeper insight into how they were using the material in their own schools.” (Rebecca Heiden, Student Services Coordinator, Naperville CUSD 203)


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The Character Education Certificate is delivered in an online and asynchronous format

  • The five session modules in the character education program are intended to be taken in sequence and in a timely manner
  • Participants engage with the material and one another by posting through Padlet and Voice thread. All are expected to respond with a first post for each assignment between Sunday - Thursday; then a second post responding to peers Thursday - Sunday.

“I felt engaged in the program, and appreciated the perspective of all of my peers who also were a part of the program. While virtual, it was interactive and helped grow my understanding in these areas. I learned a lot of new ideas that I’m already applying.” Kelly Jackson, Principal and Administrator for SEL and Family Engagement, Wilmette Public Schools District 39

Examining your Personal Character: Self as a Moral and Ethical Leader Fostering an Environment for Character Development: Character Education in the Classroom Creating School Cultures of Character: Character Education as a School Ethos
Introduction to character, starting from the self and the various ways our roles affect students' character development. Introduction to virtue framework, virtue language and literacy: moral, civic, intellectual and performance virtues. Introduction to effective strategies and skills for fostering a school culture of good character.
Explore a virtue ethics approach to character development. Examine the role of moral exemplars and the ways morality permeates the classroom (caught). Examine character education from a whole school perspective.
Reflect on educational aims and beliefs that affect students' sense of agency, belongingness, and character development. Identify the intentional ways to embed character and virtue language in the classroom (taught). Introduction to effective strategies for fostering a schoolwide culture of character.
Understand power dynamics and systemic challenges to students' character development. Operationalize and create your personal framework to implement in the classroom. Conceptualize and develop a plan for cultivating an inclusive, caring and empowering school environment (sought).
Recognize the practice of dialogue to cultivate character. Develop an assessment plan to foster a culture of character in your school.

CCSD 93 Course Schedule

Modules Start Finish Modules Start Finish
CCSD 93 Cohort CHED 501 4/14/2024 5/18/2024
CCSD 93 Cohort CHED 502 5/26/2024 6/29/2024
CCSD 93 Cohort CHED 503 7/5/2024 8/16/2024


This course could not have come at a better time!  There were many situations and experiences that were happening at my school, and this truly helped me to address these issues as they were coming up.  Annette Medina, Naperville 203

Dr. Julie Nagashima graduated from University of Pittsburgh with a Ph.D. in Education. Her dissertation focused on relationships and its significance for fostering student agency. Dr. Nagashima began her educational career as an intern and program coordinator supporting programs including UNESCO associated schools project at University of Pittsburgh. Following her internship, she worked for a nonprofit organization as Educational Program Coordinator and developed mentoring programs for undergraduate and graduate students in the Pittsburgh area for six years. After graduating with her doctorate, Dr. Nagashima worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate for two years where she supported the research and development of character initiatives at Arizona State University.

Dr. Nagashima, course designer, shared her research on Character with faculty at St. Mary's University of Minnesota. Read about her presentation here

"I believe that leadership is relational and cultivated from our lived experiences. Our experiences and interaction with others nurture our ways of knowing and being in our social context. We develop wisdom to engage and to act with courage and compassion. This dynamic process is also part of our character development. When we feel a strong sense of belonging and community, we develop a natural willingness to contribute to our society. Thus, leadership to me is relational and fostered in a life-long process of navigating and developing our inner and moral self as we engage with others." 


Dr. Michael Hylen

Coordinator of Doctoral Programs/Associate Professor of Education

Southern Wesleyan University

Central, South Carolina

I feel I greatly gained in my understanding of character education through this course. Some material I had never encountered in my years in this field, even though I have a PhD in character education and talk about it in my courses I teach at the university level. Dr. Nagashima is well versed in this material and an excellent instructor for this content.”

Click here for more information on Dr. Hylen

Ms. Anne Kasa 

Instructional Technology Coach

Learning Technology Center of Illinois

Southern Cook County

"As a Character Education Certificate facilitator, I am gifted the opportunity to work alongside educators as they explore character education from within while synthesizing that understanding and philosophy into their current classroom practices. What an amazing journey to explore together!"

Click here for more information on Ms. Kasa


Is the content appropriate for administrators?

  • Yes. Administrators and teachers can benefit from the focus on character virtue reflection offered with this course.

Is there a course syllabus that I can share with my district for PD approval?

  • Yes. A syllabus for each module is available upon request.

Seoul Foreign School - Spring 2022 cohort 

A cohort of 12 educators from an International Baccalaureate in Seoul, South Korea completed the Certificate in May, 2022. These educators were motivated to enroll in the course in order to reflect on carrying out the school's mission - "Inspiring Excellence, Building Character." 

Reflections from a few of the participants:   

Since taking this program, I see character building opportunities everywhere I go. I have so many more meaningful interactions with students than I had previously. I am much more mindful as to the lessons I create and really taking ownership in the role I can play in helping to develop character with my students (whereas in the past I was quick to hand off that baton of responsibility to the core teachers). Also, the program trajectory from self to classroom to whole school helped me see the bigger picture. -- Kristen Creech

The fifteen weeks spent in this Character Development class has been a true blessing. Although the importance of character was clear, I now have a better understanding of how to prioritize, model, and be intentional about embedding character education into my teaching and coaching. It was both affirming and challenging to learn how much my behaviors greatly affect my students’ behaviors. In Module 2, I learned to choose virtues most important to me and create a framework. This moral framework will guide my lessons to help my athletes and students to think about who they want to be in the future and to start making choices toward being that person of character. I was reminded that character development is a life-long process and even small changes can be impactful in the long run. -- Kirsten Gray

I went from not knowing a whole lot about Character Education, to seeing different parts and pieces, to learning about the process and structure of building/implementing character education in a school setting. It has been a journey and the most fun part is doing it with some of my co-workers and friends. It was so nice to have connected with this small community in a meaningful way. The reflection and sharing pieces are priceless. I’ve been humbled and have learned so much from these dedicated colleagues. --Jiangjiang Chen

This program has given me a significant understanding of the knowledge in the field of Character Education.  It is strange because so much of the content felt familiar, but hearing it in a cohesive and unified way, really brought it to life for me. I am definitely going to implement the lesson into the sports program. -- Paul Rader

I want to thank Dr. Nagashima for putting this course together and allowing members of our school to take it as a cohort together. That was immensely helpful for me, because it meant that not only could I engage outside of the “virtual classroom” with my colleagues, but also that during our class we could focus our discussion on what we can do within our context. -- Stephanie Black

I have learned in this course that character education is not just about teaching good behaviors, or modeling them in the classroom. It’s much wider and deeper. This course helped us to learn the ways to make the word character come alive in our everyday school life. This is definitely my favorite PD this year. -- Xin Ding