LEHMAN TWP. — Fourth-grader Benjamin Wnuk was in computer lab when he heard Lehman-Jackson Elementary School Principal Donald James say his name, along with five other students’, over the school’s announcement speakers.
The immediate “uh oh” feeling dispersed when they were named state-level winners in the Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest.
“Everyone (in the computer class) came over to me to congratulate me,” Wnuk said.
The contest pitted the elementary students’ penmanship against 275,000 students nationally. At the end of April, the state level winners were announced, adding a feather to the Black Knights’ cap.
This was the third year Lehman-Jackson Elementary School entered the national contest and the third time students placed at the state level, said James.
“The first year we had two students named state winners,” James said. “Last year we had four and this year, five from Lehman-Jackson and one from Lake-Noxen.”
The state winners are Kasey Shook, second-grade, Lake-Noxen Elementary School; Giolla Biscotto, kindergarten; Finley Norconk, second-grade; Alana Palmaioli, third-grade; Benjamin Wnuk, fourth-grade; Cole Kaiser, fifth-grade; and Claire Dougherty, sixth-grade, all of Lehman-Jackson Elementary School.
The students each received engraved medallions from Zaner-Bloser, which is part of the Highlights company. Then, at the May 9 school board meeting, the District award each student with a certificate in recognition of their achievement.
With all the fanfare behind them, the students were eager to share their experiences during a recent meeting, and each sat with a copy of their writing sample at a table in the Lehman-Jackson Elementary School Library.
“We had to write out sentences and answer a question,” Palmaioli said what the contest required.
“The question was, ‘Why is handwriting important to you?’” Dougherty said.
Kaiser was eager to share his reasoning.
“My handwriting is important to me because it helps me read better and the better I read, the better my handwriting gets,” Kaiser said.
Dougherty, who enjoys art, sees cursive writing as another art form.
“I like calligraphy, and this (cursive writing) is a different form,” Dougherty said. “It is another way to express my creativity.”
The students’ writing samples are now being judged in a nationwide competition, James said.
“The national winner will receive $1,000,” James said. “Last year, Gracie James, my daughter, was a runner-up. We should know if we have a national winner (soon).”
Cursive writing took a back seat in the state’s Common Core Standards despite its prevalence in many historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address.
The Lake-Lehman School District, along with James, see the value of teaching writing extending past history lessons.
“The district felt it was important to keep cursive writing as part of the curriculum,” James said. “People still need to sign their name to documents.”