Sixth-graders in SBMS health class meet with Paul K. Chappell. (Santa Barbara Middle School)

Iraq War veteran and West Point graduate Paul K. Chappell is bringing his message of peace and tolerance to Santa Barbara Middle School (SBMS) staff and students in a six-month Peace Educator partnership.

With help from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Chappell is the champion behind igniting an international peaceful revolution.

Through his seven-book series on peace literacy, his international keynote lectures, leadership seminars, and classroom workshops, it is Chappell’s hope to wage a peaceful revolution fueled by empathy, purpose, and a sense of belonging.

Chappell kicked off the SBMS school year with an address bringing a hopeful and inspiring message for SBMS staff members.

He talked about the current human condition and how best to respond to students and families coming through the schoolhouse door with varying levels of exposure to the challenging, and sometimes violent and unpredictable global landscape we face.

“Our entire room of 45 adults listened to Chappell’s 90-minute presentation totally enthralled,” said Whitney Ingersoll, director of admission at Santa Barbara Middle School.

“He speaks from the heart, and his message speaks to archetypal mindsets of what it means to be human. He clearly explained how we can better understand ourselves and others, in order to communicate and live more peacefully, inside and out,” she said.

Erin Riley, SBMS math teacher said, “Paul gave us a common language and framework that we can use to discuss the work we are already doing and the work we strive to do more of within ourselves and with the students.”

Chappell continues to work in partnership with the students during SBMS health and life skills classes.

One topic he readily teaches is to recognize that students who present as bullies are actually suffering from their own pain and trauma. Their actions often reflect misaligned self-worth, shame, and a lack of feeling significant.

“The best tool to combat a bully is increased empathy, understanding and curiosity,” he said.

A sixth-grade student in Danielle Bean’s health class said, “Paul Chappell’s peace education has taught me that bullies are just feeling pain, and that we need to practice empathy to better understand what is underneath their aggression.”

Chappell will teach peace literacy classes in the seventh- and eighth-grade health and life skills classes later this fall.

Chappell is the guest speaker at SBMS’ Parent Association meeting, 7 p.m. Nov. 7, when he will share what he terms the “Tangles of Trauma” and address how families can support themselves and their children in what some call uncertain times.

Chappell will revisit the SBMS staff for two more in-service trainings in November and January. The goal for SBMS is to move to the forefront and to help model and strengthen the peaceful revolution, Chappell said.

The school’s intent is to foster a more peaceful and compassionate way to be in the world within oneself, at home, and as a school community.

For more information about Chappell and the work of the Nuclear Peace Foundation, visit

— Sue Carmody for Santa Barbara Middle School.