There’s something pretty miraculous about teachers giving kids an opportunity to learn not only above and beyond the classroom experience, but also how to be generous and pay it back if they’re able to.
Such was the case with six Middlebrook students and their creative teachers who were part of last year’s pilot book publishing program. Under the guidance of teachers Suzana Prata, Tom Koch and Will Mathews, the students were able to benefit from the seed money grant given by the Wilton Education Foundation (WEF), and publish actual books. Following a book signing event last spring at the Wilton Library where books were available for purchase, the group earned enough from sales of the books to make a $1,000 donation back to the non-profit, as well as a $110 donation to the library to reimburse for the use of the Brubeck Room during the book signing event.
The six students presented checks to WEF co-chair Renee Cahill and Wilton Library executive director Elaine Tai-Lauria after school last week. Both officials were impressed with the effort and grateful that the students could make the connection between their work and giving back to help others.
“This is wonderful. We love to be able to give to something outside of the box that makes kids think out of the box. It is so nice to be able to support something so incredible as you authors and your books, but then you want to give back, it’s a beautiful thing,” Cahill told the six student authors. “On behalf of everybody at the Wilton Education Foundation, we really appreciate it, and you all should be very proud of yourselves.”
“Your donation is a tremendous investment, because for each dollar we invest in a book, that book will be enjoyed by 18-20 other people. Your investment comes back tenfold and you’ve given a lot of happiness and shared information with a lot of people,” Tai-Lauria said.
The six student authors were William Bonnist (Lacrosse and Me), Alexandra Breakey (One Last Run), Matthew Fieldman (Slumber), Noel Schlageter (Permanent Vacation), Samantha Victor (Food Fight) and Catherine Young (Fake).
They were selected to participate in the program, which involved meeting outside of classroom time to work with the teachers who guided them through the publication process. The effort was intended to help the students use their research, reading and writing skills in a concrete way and enable the teachers to pilot a program that would meet one of their proposed goals, as “… one example of how to bridge the gap between the new reading and writing curriculum with the social studies content area.”
Koch said working with the students over the course of last year was a great experience all around.
“The contribution from WEF was so unbelievably, greatly appreciated. To be able to work with the children outside of the classroom on something that was so authentic was truly rewarding for us, it was a gift to us as well.”
WEF board member Heather Borden Herve thanked the student authors for another, more intangible contribution.
“The best part about this is that you’ve inspired other students. When we talk about continuing to support this program, the fact that other kids got to see you at the Library event, and pick up your books, and know that there are kids just like them who came before them and did this, it inspires them. They’ll know that when they’re working on writing in the classroom, there’s something that it leads to. That’s a big lesson.”