What could possibly be more fun than visiting with a bunch of 4th grade students about writing poetry? Visiting with a bunch of 4th grade students at David Harrison Elementary School. And that’s what I’ll be doing this afternoon.
Next week when AND THE BULLFROGS SING comes out from Holiday House I’ll pay a visit to the student body at Harrison for a while to hear kids read their own writing and read from the new book, but today I’ll have the three 4th grade classes all to myself in the cafeteria and we’ll talk about poetry. How sweet is that?
Yesterday I mailed my check for a ticket to this year’s Teacher Appreciation Banquet, which is always attended by 800-1,000 teachers, family, and supporters of public education. It has been held every year since 1994. Nancy Graff and I organized the original banquet. I was master of ceremonies from 1994-2000 and guest speaker in 2001. The date this year is April 15 and will be held at Oasis Convention Center in Springfield. Tickets are $35, which includes a silent auction featuring designer wear, gift baskets, movie passes, tasty treats, and much more. There will also be a performance from the cast of Kickapoo High School’s theatre production of “Into the Woods.” Tickets can be purchased from Foundation for Springfield Public Schools, 1331 Boonville, 65802. Maybe I’ll see you there!
This year I’ll have the pleasure of sitting at the table with teachers and staff from David Harrison Elementary School and rooting for Harrison art teacher Kevin Zimmerman, one of the five finalists for Teacher of the Year. If he wins, Kevin will be the second teacher from Harrison who has held that honor. The delightful teacher in the picture is Dawn Licata who teaches second grade at Harrison. She and her students made valuable contributions to 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR WRITING SUCCESS, the 2018 Scholastic book I co-wrote with Mary Jo Fresch. The picture was snapped at the 2016 banquet and I don’t recall why I was suddenly sporting a beard and long face, but it must have been fun!
The banquet has a life of its own now and is in the capable hands of others. These days I get to wear my special tie, which I’ve worn to every banquet since the beginning, and take quiet pleasure in watching teachers enjoying themselves on the evening set aside to honor them and remind the community of the vital role they play in our lives.
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The other day when I was signing at Barnes & Noble a young boy stopped by with his parents. He was wearing a t-shirt that said, Harrison Huskies on it. He’s in 4th grade at the school that bears my name. Other Harrison students, present and past, also came to say hello. Each and every time I meet a young person who tells me he or she goes to Harrison I’m thrilled all over again. The school opened in 2009 so by now there are many Harrison graduates around the city and it’s not unusual for someone to tell me they used to go there.
I always visit David Harrison Elementary at least once every year and sometimes take visitors there so they can see the school. Many were there for the grand opening when I gave a speech. Kent and Jody Brown
flew in from Highlights to be there. So did my pal Deanna Schuler
from Warrensburg. My family was there, including my mother who was in a wheel chair by then.
In the eight years since the school opened the oldest students at the time are now seniors in high school. Soon they will be spreading their wings, flying off to college or to jobs, marriage, life. Wherever I go around town in public places, I stand a little straighter, wondering if someone in the room went to “my” school. Not many people get turned into buildings. Believe me, we buildings are always aware of the privilege we’ve been given.
Yesterday afternoon it was a pleasure to visit Dawn Licata and her 2nd grade class at David Harrison Elementary School. Dawn is one of the teachers around the country who volunteered to introduce students to classroom activities suggested in the book I’m co-writing with Mary Jo Fresch.
I’m SO pleased to have a Springfield school represented in the book and naturally I’m especially delighted that it will be someone from Harrison Elementary. While I was there Dawn showed me some of the work that her kids have done. I loved it.
I read for a while to Dawn’s students and answered questions. As I was leaving, one boy handed me a letter he had written and illustrated just for me. He thanked me for all the “great books (I) have made to the world” and concluded that I “should be in history.” I liked the first part and appreciated the spirit of the second, but honestly I don’t feel quite ready to be history.
Tonight in Springfield is the annual Teacher Appreciation Banquet. I don’t know what the attendance will be but it’s generally in the 850-1,000 range. It was my idea, twenty-three years ago, to have a banquet each year to remind teachers how much they are appreciated, provide the community with an opportunity to meet and celebrate their teachers, and demonstrate to students that teachers are highly respected. I helped run the banquet for the first seven years. Nancy Graff, her staff, and I formed the core team and we reached out to as many others as we needed. I haven’t played a role for a long time but I almost never miss the event. I even have a special tie that I only wear once a year to the Teachers Appreciation Banquet.
Each year at the banquet a teacher of the year is announced from among five finalists. For many years I used to sit on the committee that interviewed all nominees and selected the five finalists. Tonight one of the five finalists for Teacher of the Year teaches at David Harrison Elementary School so I have an extra incentive to be there! Way to go, Kevin Zimmerman!