top of page
Quite possibly the hottest topic today. Join us as we talk to ordinary   folks working hard to be extraordinarily good people for the world.  

EPISODE ONE season one "why character"

Erika Niles

Principal | Green Trails Elementary School

St. Louis, Missouri


Erika is the Principal of Green Trails Elementary in the Parkway School District in St. Louis, Missouri. She began her career over two decades ago as an elementary classroom teacher, serving in both Rockwood and Hazelwood schools. In addition, Erika was previously a middle school gifted social studies teacher, literacy coach, and elementary math specialist in the Ladue School District, and the building leader and instructional coordinator at Captain Elementary in the Clayton School District. Erika holds a Master's in Education Administration from Southwest Baptist University, a Master's in Education from Lindenwood University, and a Bachelor’s in Education from Maryville University. She is currently a character education and servant leadership doctoral student at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.


Erika is also an education social media influencer with over 25,000 Twitter followers. How can you not love someone whose social media header image reads "this beautiful mess." Her one-phrase tweet perspectives are cited, retweeted, and discussed by the likes of Education Week and Edutopia. For a refreshing yet pointed take on education, life, and everything in between, you can't go wrong joining her on Twitter @flyingmonkey13


EPISODE TWO season one "why character"

Marvin Anderson

Senior Vice President | Private Client Advisor  Bank of America Private Bank

St. Louis, Missouri


A city of St. Louis native, Marvin Anderson is Senior Vice President and Private Client Advisor with U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management, in St. Louis. Marvin leads the design and development of tailored financial strategies for individuals, families, and institutions. He works closely with business owners, senior executives of public and private companies, and endowments and foundations to identify their long-term goals and pursue those objectives with forethought and care.


Marvin believes in treating clients as he would like to be treated. Before joining Bank of America Private Bank, Marvin was a Banker with J.P. Morgan’s Private Bank. Previously, he spent most of his nearly 30-year career as an investment banker with A.G. Edwards and Wachovia. He holds an M.B.A. and a Master’s degree in Public Policy (M.P.P.) from The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and a B.S.B.A. from Rockhurst University.


Marvin serves as a Board Member of the St. Louis Community Foundation, the Christian Church Foundation, The Interfaith Partnership, Missouri Historical Society, Oasis, and Webster University. In addition, Marvin serves on the CharacterPlus Executive Committee as Secretary. 


EPISODE THREE season one "why character"

Missouri State Senator Karla Eslinger


Committee Examples Include:   

Interim Committee on Education, Chairwoman

Missouri Education Program Board

Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment

Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect

Joint Committee on Public Assistance


Gubernatorial Appointments


Senator Karla Eslinger is a lifelong educator with more than 30 years of experience in a variety of educational settings. She most recently served as a senior analyst for education services with the AEM Corporation and provided technical assistance to the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. Previously, she served as an assistant commissioner of education for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She began her career as an elementary school teacher and went on to work as a building principal and a superintendent of schools in Ava and West Plains.

A graduate of Gainesville High School, Sen. Eslinger holds a bachelor degree in elementary education from The College of the Ozarks. She also earned a master’s degree in education administration and a specialist degree in superintendency and educational system administration from Missouri State University. Senator Eslinger received her doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Prior to her election to the Missouri Senate in 2020, Sen. Eslinger represented District 155 in the Missouri House of Representatives from 2019 through 2020.


Senator Eslinger is a long-term resident of Wasola, where she and her husband David reside on the family farm. They have also owned and operated a small business for over 35 years. They have two daughters and three grandchildren.


EPISODE FOUR season one "why character"

Senior Director of CharacterPlus Programming Kristen Pelster, Ed.S. &

Sanford N. McDonnell Professor of Character Education & UM System Thomas Jefferson Fellow Marvin W Berkowitz, Ph.D.


Dr. Marvin Berkowitz and Kristen Pelster discuss the “Why” behind character education and practical steps you can take within your character leadership journey personally and professionally.


In 1999 Dr. Marvin Berkowitz was the inaugural Ambassador H.H. Coors Professor of Character Development at the US Air Force Academy. He served as Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Ethics Studies at Marquette University. He was also the founder and Associate Director of the Center for Addiction and Behavioral Health Research in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He earned his BA degree from the State University of NY at Buffalo in 1972. He earned his Ph.D. in Life-span Developmental Psychology at Wayne State University in 1977. He served as a Research Associate at the Center for Moral Development and Education at Harvard University from 1977-79. He has also served as a Visiting Professor at the 

Max-Planck-Institute for Human Development and Education in Berlin (1987-88), as a Visiting Scholar for the Gordon Cook Foundation in Scotland (1995), and as an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, England (2019-2021).


He is joined by Kristen Pelster. She’s spent over two decades as an educator and then administrator. She’s a National School of Character recipient and a St. Louis Region Middle School Principal of the Year. For nearly a decade, Kristen served as the district leader for character education. Not satisfied with her school becoming a National School of Character, her work throughout Fox C-6 was recognized as a National District of Character.


That incredible journey took Kristen before the Senate in Washington, D.C., testifying on the positive impact of “social, emotional and character development.” Kristin is currently studying for an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership at the University of Missouri - St. Louis (UMSL). Her educational achievements at UMSL include an Ed.S. in Education Administration, M.A. in Education Administration, and she is a graduate of the Leadership Academy in Character Education. Kristen received a B.A. in Music Education from Missouri Baptist University.


EPISODE FIVE.1 season one "why character"

Alexia Georges, National School of Character Parent of Enrolled Child &

Rene Sommers, Ed.D., Retired Principal, Teacher Academy in Character Education Co-Director and National School of Character Administrator


Do you ever wonder how some schools excel not just academically but also in shaping the character of their students? Are you a parent seeking to understand how you can impact your child's educational journey? Then this episode of the Character Plus Podcast is a must-listen for you!

Join host Mike Park as he converses with Dr. Rene Sommers, an educational consultant with a rich history of transforming schools into character-building powerhouses. They're joined by Alexia Georges, a parent whose active involvement in her children's school has led to some genuinely inspiring outcomes.

In this episode, you'll discover:

- The underrated role of parental involvement in schools.

- How character values like "Grit" can be more than just buzzwords.

- Insights that could change the way you approach your child's education.

Don't miss this opportunity to learn from both sides of the educational coin— a seasoned educator and an involved parent. Together, they'll share valuable lessons that could reshape how you view your role in your child's education.


EPISODE FIVE.2 season one "why character"

Alexia Georges, National School of Character Parent of Enrolled Child &

Rene Sommers, Ed.D., Retired Principal, Teacher Academy in Character Education Co-Director and National School of Character Administrator

Welcome back to the Character Plus Podcast for Part II of Beyond Grades: Fostering Grit and Growth. In this transformative discussion hosted by Mike Park, the CEO of Character Plus you'll hear special commentary from Dr. Rene Sommers and guest Alexia Georges. Together they discuss the impact of character education at Green Trails Elementary.

In this continuation, expect a rich exploration that goes beyond conventional educational benchmarks, revealing the essence of a supportive community and actionable guidance for Parents, Teachers, and Principals desiring to cultivate an environment ripe for nurturing remarkable growth in children.


EPISODE SIX season one "why character"

Julie Sperry, Ed.D., Director of Program Expansion and Innovation, Teacher Academy in Character Education (TACE) Co-Director


In this special episode of CharacterPlus, join us as we highlight the Teacher Academy in Character Education (TACE), led by the inspiring Dr. Julie Sperry, Director of Innovation, Leadership, and Program Expansion at CharacterPlus. Explore an insightful conversation on TACE's profound impact on educators and their students. Hear Dr. Sperry share her expertise and the inspiring outcomes of this innovative program. Learn how TACE equips teachers to be catalysts for transformative change, fostering learning environments where every student is inspired, understood, and motivated to excel.


EPISODE ONE season two "culture & climate"

Tyler Archer, Ed.D., Principal, SLPS Nance Elementary School and 2024 State School of Character Recipient, and Nicole Diehl, Director of Programming, CharacterPlus


Join us for a powerful exploration of leadership with Dr. Tyler Archer, the distinguished Principal of Nance Elementary, recently named a State School of Character . In a compelling interview with special Guest-Host Nicole Diehl, Director of Programming at CharacterPlus, they share insights on the heart of character education's role in molding not only academically successful students but also individuals who are empathetic, well-rounded, and compassionate.

Dr. Archer shares insights on how educators are committed to serving students beyond conventional educational paradigms, striving for transformative change that transcends mere academic achievement. This conversation highlights the crucial impact of character in cultivating a supportive and inclusive school atmosphere, empowering educators, and establishing a set of shared values that inspire and propel the school community to greater heights. Discover the partnership between CharacterPlus and schools like Nance Elementary, as they intertwine the values of empathy, respect, and perseverance into education's very essence, paving the way for a promising and luminous future for every student. Tune in to witness how character education is revolutionizing the educational landscape, fostering environments where every student can thrive.

bottom of page