True Character in Action – Teachers Save Lives During School Shooting


We like to consider schools as safe zones, places where children can retain an expectation of safety and protection.  Unfortunately, over the last few years our nation has experienced an increase in school shootings.

February 14, 2018, seventeen people were killed and fourteen were injured in a Florida high school.  This is the third largest school shooting in America’s history.  These tragedies burn into our memories forever. I can still recall the 2007 Virginia Tech and 2012 Sandy Hook school shootings.

You may wonder, “What would I do if I was faced with a similar circumstance?”

There is some debate about what is best to do during a school shooting, but today schools are training teachers and students to run.  Follow the school emergency plan and listen to school leaders that you are familiar with.

While this disaster is not easily explained and/or understood, I have found a lesson of inspiration and leadership

A person’s true character is revealed during a catastrophe or tragic event.

There were several outstanding examples of educators with character on this day. At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida a janitor redirected more than 40 students away from the shooter and saved many of their lives.

I would also like to highlight three teacher heroes that died protecting students from the shooter.  Scott Beigel, a Geography teacher, Aaron Feis, a football coach, and Chris Hixon, the athletic director, died protecting students from the shooter.  These three heroes saved dozens of students from gun fire by literally shielding other students with their bodies.  I am proud that we have amazing leaders like these in our schools.

I am not sure if this could have been avoided. I do know that there are many hurting people in our schools. There is something that we can do to help those that are hurting in our schools. Here is a Great Article of a teacher that is intentionally trying to reduce school tragedies by understanding the students in a unique way.

Tragedies like these can be difficult to deal with.  It is important that we take a moment to reflect on how these events influence and affect us – those both close and far from the situation. Grief is a process.  It takes time.

I have experience in dealing with difficult situations in my personal and professional life.  For example, many don’t know that I was the target of a potential school shooter that was arrested and is still in jail to this day.

Sometimes events happen outside of school.  I remember teaching a high school biology class in Galt, Ca where one of the students I had was suddenly not there one day.  This was unusual because he rarely missed class.  He was an English Learner and had a quiet sense about him.  That night I saw in the news that he had passed away by drowning in the American River.  This was difficulty for the school and my class to deal with.

There are times where your students will be affected by life changing events.  At William Jessup University a few years ago we had a Student Teacher that had a terminally ill 1st grader pass away.  This was difficulty for the school, teacher, student teacher, and the Jessup community.

You can even have things happen to colleagues that you work with.  Last year we lost a faculty member at William Jessup University.  These moments of mourning are uniquely connected to the human race and we hope that the character development at Jessup has helped to prepare you to steer through this journey of life.

When difficult events happen here are some of my personal tips:

1.  Be aware of your own emotional state.

2.  Reassure those that you are involved with that it is safe.

3.  Only share developmentally appropriate information.

From my own experience traumatic events are unavoidable and unequal in their distribution.  Individuals that allow these events to change them mature and adjust to the new state they are forced into.  For example, when my father passed away it was sudden and traumatic.  That event changed me forever.  Luckily, I have a large family that served as a support system.  There were two things that I learned from that experience that I would like to share with you:

This brought me closer to Jesus.  What does one do without a father?  My response was to reach out to my heavenly father.  The term “heavenly father” meant something very different to me after my father passed away.  For the first time I had to talk to Jesus (my heavenly father) to talk to my dad (my biological father).  This brought me closer to Jesus.

Relationships matter.  We held my dad’s funeral a few days after he passed away on a week day in the middle of the day.  There were more than 2,000 people that attended the funeral.  Many others contacted us because they were not able to attend.  My dad understood the importance of people and relationships.  His priorities were correct in God, Family, People, then work.  My understanding and commitment to people and relationships were changed as a result of my father passing away.

As a family we wrote a book titled: I am my Dad.  All eleven children wrote a chapter of how we are similar to our dad.

It is good to reflect and understand what you learn from traumatic events.  In fact, that is good teaching as well.

Attached there are some resources for you to educate yourself and others related to traumatic events.  I hope this is helpful.

1. School Violence: Coping with Anxiety

2. Helping Children Cope with School Violence

3. Tragedy Aftermath: Taking Care of Yourself

4. Trauma in the Community

Thanks to these educators and leaders that provided a model of true character.

We need more teachers like this.

Dr. Nathan Herzog


Dispositions of an Educator – Self-Control

Fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23).

Character Focus: Self-Control

As we head into a time of thankfulness, celebration, holidays, I would like to leave you with some thoughts considering self-control.

If you were to observe people at a mall, you would most likely find the majority of the population connected to information and environments through a device.  I am sure we have all witnessed hilarious videos of individuals that have accidentally fallen and/or ran into objects due to this distraction.  For this conversation, I would like to name those individuals as “head-down” people.  The truth is that reality cannot compete with the exciting and flashy information, entertainment, and humor that is available and in abundance at all hours.  To move from “head-down” to “head-up” will take self-control.  How can we resist the attraction to be distracted by entertainment and be in the present?  This temptation is a skill that will be difficult to unlearn.

This issue is rampant within our culture.  I am sure we have all witnessed a thousand times where one individual pulls out their phone so others do as well.  One “head-down” person can precipitate a wave of “head-down” followers.  The “head-up” movement will begin with self-control and the resistance to continual self-indulgence and distraction.

Similarly, educators are constantly competing with “head-down” distractions.  Educators can try to compete by being more entertaining and flashy, but they will fail.  The student must use self-control to resist the access and distraction available at the touch of a button to remain present physically, mentally, and emotionally.

In this holiday season it is even more critical that we build relationships with loved ones because we aren’t sure what the future holds.  Engaging in meaningful conversation where two people are physically, mentally, and emotionally present is a dying norm.

In both education and events with others use self-control to remain as a “heads-up” individual so others feel valued.

From a Christian perspective, we are not made of this world.  Because of this, we should not give into out bodily desires.  Self-control could be looked at as the absence of action.  According to the bible, knowledge leads to self-control, self-control leads to perseverance, and perseverance leads to Godliness (2nd Peter 1).  Before self-control is knowledge.  What areas in your life do you need self-control in?

While resisting being distracted and remaining as a “heads-up” individual is helpful, other areas in our lives could use self-control.  Some of these areas include: the use of our tongue, drinking of alcohol, lustful thoughts and desires, time management with work and hobbies, prioritization of our budget, and much more.

How have you seen self-control effective in your life?

Dr. Nathan Herzog

Dispositions of an Educator – Gentleness

Fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23).

Character Focus: Gentleness

According to the Bible, gentleness is kindness with humility and respect.  When engaging with others we should show respect and be absent of arrogance to display the Godly character of gentleness.  Furthermore, 1 Peter 3:15 states that we should always be prepared to share the good news but to do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).  When sharing our faith we should not disrespect others.  Characterizing gentleness takes practice.  One way we can accomplish this is through a daily routine like getting dressed.  Colossians 3:12 says that we should “clothe ourselves with gentleness” (Colossians 3:12).  As teachers, when we get up in the morning we should put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and the jeans of gentleness.

You have most-likely heard of the phrase, “The gentle giant.”  With recent movies such as BFG and Jack in the Bean Stock, giants are a part of our culture.  At times these films display gentle characteristics and other times a more aggressive depiction of powerful individuals.  We all have giants in our lives.  Giants need not be only physical.  One may also be a giant in their personal, professional, and academic life.  In any environment, there is something peaceful about an extremely powerful individual that chooses to display a calm peaceful demeanor rather than a threatening one.  Have you come into contact with someone that has aggressively displayed their “giant?”  Have you ever done that yourself?  Similarly, individual scan have a giant personality.  To most of our students we are “giants.”  Whether that be physically, mentally, professionally, academically, and/or spiritually.  It takes a humble person to put on a gentle persona rather than a threatening one.  Teachers that choose gentleness will find more success with impacting the lives of young people in a meaningful way.

What can you do as an educator to ensure that you choose to be a Gentle Giant with kindness, respect, and humility?  Even at our worst, students should experience our best.

Dr. Nathan Herzog

Dispositions of an Educator – Goodness

Fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23).

There are more than 300 million people in the United States.  Nearly one third are in K-12 Education.  Teachers are influencing the future education, culture, and character of young people.  Currently students do not believe character is important.  According to Educational Leadership (Weissbourd, May 2011), “…more than one third of juniors surveyed identified ‘getting into a good college’ as more important than ‘being a good person.’”  It is true that education and prestige are helpful in attaining a desirable job; however, most people that have worked for a significant amount of time will tell you that character is what allows a person to keep their job.  Ralph Waldo Emerson agrees by stating, “Character is higher than intellect.  A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.”  Character should have a higher priority than education itself.

Character Focus: Goodness

When I think of goodness, I think of great worship songs.  I remember singing one song in particular, “Father of Lights.”  Everything good comes from God.

Father of lights, You delight in Your children
Father of lights, You delight in Your children
Every good and perfect gift comes from You
Every good and perfect gift comes from You
Every good and perfect gift comes from You
Father of lights
Father of lights, You never change
You have no turning
Father of lights, You never change
You have no turning

(John Barnett)

According to the Apostle Peter, goodness is foundational to developing Godliness.  Peter states that add goodness to your faith; add knowledge to goodness; add self-control to knowledge; add perseverance to self-control; and Godliness will result (2 Peter 1: 4-6, NIV).  To illustrate this, I am reminded of a story of a pastor.  A senior pastor told a youth pastor, “Did you know there were four kids smoking outside the youth room last Wednesday evening?  What is your plan to discipline that behavior?”  The youth pastor (modeling the characteristic of Goodness) replied, “You mean I was able to get smokers to come to church?”  Goodness is a choice.  People can choose to see the goodness in situations or not.  When you choose to see goodness you also choose to see God at work.

As a teacher goodness is essential to appropriate character development.  Typically, we associate “good” with behavior in education.  In addition to behavior, teachers can choose to see the goodness in situations.  I teach teachers.  One of the most challenging parts of our program is during their student teaching internship.  This challenge brings many emotional, physical, and spiritual difficulties where some view the goodness and others do not.  Goodness is more powerful than many of us can fathom.  I recently attended a “Courage to Be You” event where two women shared their testimony of being rescued from sex-trafficking.  At this event both women shared how the incredible goodness of God resulted from their dark and evil experiences.  One person shared that when you are in the midst of the darkness it is difficult to see the goodness.  For example, looking at a Picasso painting up close may appear unorganized and messy.  However, when you step back and look at the painting the goodness can be viewed.  At this event I realized an entirely different level of goodness.  I think as educators we can make a choice to step back and view the goodness of situations in education.

Dr. Nathan Herzog



Weissbourd, R. (May 01, 2011). The Overpressured Student. Educational Leadership, 68, 8, 22-27.

Dispositions of an Educator – Kindness

Fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23).

Are you always comfortable?  If you are, then you need to force yourself into difficult situations to develop character.  People often complain because they are uncomfortable.  What if you took the uncomfortable situation as an opportunity to demonstrate a particular fruit of the spirit?  For example, in the midst of an unloving person you may have the opportunity to show love.  During a depressing situation you may have the opportunity to display the joy of the Lord.  During a time of conflict you may have the opportunity to portray peace.  During a time sensitive moment you may have the opportunity to represent patience.  While in a negative situation you can provide a kind heart.  In a situation that may seem meaningless you may have the opportunity to find goodness in it.  When everyone else is giving up you may have the opportunity to remain faithful.  When rough and aggressive situations arise you may have the opportunity to give a gentle response.  When many are falling to temptation you may have the opportunity to display self-control.  Let us pray, “Lord please provide an opportunity for me to be uncomfortable so that I may further develop all or some of the fruits of the spirit.”

Character Focus: Kindness

God has shown immense kindness to us and we are instructed to continue in that kindness with others.  “For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off (Romans 11: 21-22).”  Some of the ways that one can show kindness are:

Help others without thought of reward;

Overlook mistakes;

Have patience with faultiness;

Forgive easily;

Put the needs of others before your own;

Share the good things in your life;

Be genuinely interested in others;

Give of your own time;

Be well-mannered and courteous;

Share another’s affliction;

Listen attentively;

Resist the urge to talk about others unkindly.

Kindness is more than an act.  More important than the act of kindness is the intentionality behind the act.  To illustrate, a person that provides a compliment to another person to persuade them to do a favor is not the sort of kindness that would emulate the character of Christ.  On the other hand, an adult that anonymously pays for another family’s meal with a note that reads “Jesus Loves You,” is something that spreads Christ’s kindness to others.

Kindness should glorify God not yourself.  In October of 2000 a movie was released titled, “Pay it Forward.”  In the movie a young boy, inspired by his teacher, performed random acts of kindness to people that eventually made a large impact in society.  When was the last time you did something kind for someone without any strings attached, or better yet anonymously?  The American culture is to bring attention to oneself.  The culture of Christ is to bring attention to God.

There are some educational character initiatives as a result of violence in the schools.  On April 20th, 1999, two students entered Columbine High School and massacred eleven students and one teacher.  One of whom was Rachel Scott who was especially kind and compassionate toward others.  In response to this act, Rachel’s Challenge was launched.  This program encourages others to display kindness and compassion in schools similar to how Rachel did.  Rachel’s challenge is a comprehensive elementary and secondary curriculum that provides one way to implement kindness and compassion into schools to build character (Hollingshead, B., Crump, C., Eddy, R., & Rowe, D., 2009).  Violence in schools may be avoided by encouraging kindness through purposeful character development programs like Rachel’s Challenge.

Choose to be kind today.

Dr. Nathan Herzog



Hollingshead, B., Crump, C., Eddy, R., & Rowe, D. (2009). Rachel’s Challenge: A Moral Compass for Character Education. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 45(3), 111-115. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Dispositions of an Educator – Patience

Fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23).

To understand more about the Fruit of the Spirit I will explain how a literal fruit develops.  Fruit is the consumable part of a plant that develops from a flower.  Flowers make wonderful gifts.  Let us imagine for a moment that the Holy Spirit gives us a flower which has the potential to develop into one of the Fruits of the Spirit.  This gift, if cultivated properly, will develop into a fruit that can then be planted to develop more flowers.   Once the fruit has reached maturity the seeds can be used to develop more flowers.  Similarly, the Fruit of the Spirit are designed to be received as a gift (flower), further developed (from a seed), and given to others to enjoy (fruit).  This process may require patience.  On the other hand, the Fruit of the Spirit are not owned by individuals nor are they static strengths possessed by individuals.

Character Focus: Patience

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote a letter to his fellow Jews about authentic patience.  In this letter James states that authentic patience is achieved through experiencing trails, waiting with hope, refusing to grumble, restraint from swearing, praying for healing, and caring for fallen believers.  According to James, “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.  You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”  The farmer knows that the crop will not be its best until it is fully ripened.  The farmer has no choice but to wait.  If the crop is picked early it will not reach its full potential.  Patience will allow us and others within our lives to reach the full potential as designed by God.  (Joseph’s patience)

In Education, patience may be the solution to many of the challenges we face.  According to D’Orio (2011), patience may be the solution to some of the largest educational issues such as; “closing the achievement gap, improving teacher training and recruitment, and reducing emphasis on standardized tests.”  In education there is no such thing as a quick fix.  It is possible that we have made improvements to solve many issues and now we must exhibit patience to allow them to work.  In addition, patience may be the solution to some classroom challenges.  A study was done in India to look at effective strategies for teachers in diverse situations.  It was found that when implementing strategies teachers must have patience for them to work properly (Adair & Bhaskaran; 2010).  Similar to “The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg” by Aesop desiring to have it all without patience may lead to the loss of everything.  Teachers need to be patient to allow the Fruit of the Spirit to be ripe for the picking.

(To clarify; Patience vs. waiting and doing nothing; don’t just stop and wait.)

Dr. Nathan Herzog


Adair, J., & Bhaskaran, L. (2010). Practices from an Urban Preschool in Bangalore, India. YC: Young Children, 65(6), 48-55. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

D’Orio, W. (2011). Our Big Challenge. Scholastic Administrator, 10(6), 4. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Dispositions of an Educator – Peace

Fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23).

Are we teachers that are Christians?  Are we Christians that are teachers?  Or are we followers of Christ called to a profession to be a light unto the world?  Your answers to these questions will determine how you integrate your faith in life.  While many people try to figure out how this can be accomplished, there are those that establish the Fruits of the Spirit into their worldview to integrate life into their faith.

Character Focus: Peace

Peace has been defined as the absence of conflict (Burstermann, 1993).  This is not the a great way to define peace.  There is not a living organism that experiences life void of conflict.  However, some living organisms have the ability to exist with conflict without succumbing to unnecessary emotional or physical outbursts that may lead to behavior that is not peaceful.  In fact, there are always peaceful solutions to all forms of conflict.

Teachers can develop peaceful hearts by following the words of Isaiah and Paul.  Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, not only did Isaiah prophesy of the coming Christ, he also provided specific instructions to attain peace (Isaiah 26).  Isaiah in a song expresses that the key to “perfect peace” is faith.  Similarly, Paul wrote a letter to the saints of Philippi while chained to a guard and under house arrest.  He wrote:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (NIV, Philippians 4: 4-9).

Both Isaiah and Paul provide specific directions for Christians to attain Peace.  The directions from Isaiah and Paul are useful if practiced prior to conflict.  We should heed the directions of a proven prophet and an eye witness to Jesus’ character.

It is important for teachers to instill an understanding of peace within students.  Pre-service teachers today identify peace with “…serenity, love, respect, friendship, tolerance, solidarity and equality” (Deveci, Yilmaz, & Karadag, 2008).  Today our youth experience both real and virtual forms of situations that are not peaceful.  Real conflicts exist in the forms of wars across the world, emotional conflict in the home, and physical conflict at school.  In addition, the various forms of virtual gaming systems may confuse our young people’s natural understanding of peace.  Because our young people are regularly exposed to non-peaceful situations it is more important than ever that we provide opportunities for students to experience peaceful situations.

Teachers can be effective in modeling peace education in K-12 classrooms.  Snodgrass (2009) recently completed research in South Africa where peace education was practiced and it was found that it “…provided opportunities for learners to grow beyond their current cultural identities and discover alternative ways of handling conflict constructively” (p. 166).  Each teacher should identify opportunities to teach peaceful behavior and provide alternative peaceful solutions to conflicts.

Nathan Herzog Ph.D.



Deveci, H., Yilmaz, F., & Karadag, R. (2008). Pre-Service Teachers’ Perceptions of Peace Education. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research (EJER), (30), 63-80. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Snodgrass, L. (2009). Peace Education in Multicultural Schools: An Action Research Approach. International Journal of Learning, 16(8), 157-168. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Dispositions of an Educator – Joy

Character Focus: Joy

Fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23)

Where do beginning teachers learn about ethical obligations related to the profession?  It is through character development where one identifies what is right and wrong.  Is it ethical to waive an assignment for a student that misses a class due to a severe medical issue?  Should a teacher provide a passing grade for a student that tries their best but does not meet the minimum requirements?  Values, ethics, and career responsibilities should be a part of teacher education (Holmes, 1991).  In Galatians 5 the Bible states that people who display the fruits of spirit are free from the law.  In other words, character development provides teachers with the appropriate ethics, values, and career responsibilities that reduce or eliminate concern with the law.  Focusing on joy can help to establish an appropriate character trait within teachers and students that is appropriate for all classroom settings.

Joy and happiness are different.  Joy is a state of one’s character where happiness is a day-to-day state of emotions.  For example, the loss of a job may influence your happiness but it should not reduce the joy of the Lord in one’s spirit.  Similarly, for teachers, when a lesson goes wrong it may influence your immediate happiness, but it should not reduce the joy of teaching.  Joyful teachers are good at maintaining a joyous attitude in all circumstances.  Furthermore, teachers should encourage students to maintain a sense of joy within their heart even during difficult circumstances.  The Bible reminds us that it is important for Christians to have a joyful heart in all situations.  Romans 12: 12 states, “Be joyful in hope, patient, in affliction, and faithful in prayer” (NIV).  Job was a good example of Joy.  In the midst of suffering, Job maintained a joyful spirit through a closer connection with God.  Will you use times of unhappiness to further develop joy within yourself?  Individuals that are able to develop characteristics prior to entering the classroom may have an improved understanding of the ethics, values, and career responsibilities associated with teaching.  As a teacher you will be unhappy, but do not allow your unhappiness to influence the Joy of your spirit.

Dr. Nathan Herzog

Dispositions of an Educator – Love

Character Focus: Love

Fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control (Galatians 5: 22-23)

In Philippians 3:13 Paul states, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it…”  That is what comes to mind when I think about character development.  I am not a perfect person.  Nevertheless, we should always strive to improve our own character and the character of those that we interact with.

The scripture provides a detailed description of what love is and what it is not.  In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that love is patient, kind, rejoices with the truth, protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.  On the other hand, Paul also explains that love is not envious, not boastful, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, never fails, and does not delight in evil.  Loving teachers demonstrate these characteristics.

Loving your students can be difficult.  With God, one can be better equipped to love students unconditionally.  However, there can be difficulty in loving a student that is continually disobedient, dangerous, and/or disruptive.  A student that is continually disruptive takes patient love.  A student that is dangerous takes protective love.  A student that is disruptive takes love that perseveres.  All the while, a loving teacher will not be rude, fail to protect, nor will they keep a record of wrong.  As Christian teachers, we are to love our students with our head, hands, and heart.  Paul closes I Corinthians chapter 13 by stating, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”  Love is the character trait that encompasses all the others.  One that practices love is also developing the character traits Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.  Now go, and choose to be a loving teacher.

Dr. Nathan Herzog

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