05/06/09 — Good penmanship pays off for students

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Good penmanship pays off for students

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 6, 2009 1:46 PM

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St. Mary School students, from left, Beverly Tabe, Maggie O'Daniel, John Kinsey III and Karlyn Wolfe, are four of the six state winners in the Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest.

Good penmanship is not a thing of the past, and at St. Mary School students are actually graded on it.

"It's a big part of our curriculum," said Sally Moriniti, a second-grade teacher at the school.

Students are taught more than how to transform letters into words on a page, though.

"They're taught how to sit, how to hold the pen and paper and the proper P's of penmanship -- posture, position and patience," Ms. Moriniti said.

Educators there took those lessons beyond the Goldsboro classroom this year, though, entering students' work into the 18th annual Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest.

"It's the first year we have ever participated," she said. After discovering it online, she mentioned it to the school's headmistress Lynn Magoon.

Anyone at the school was invited to participate, drawing response from first through sixth grades, she said.

"Of course, telling them they might get to go to Washington D.C. and win a Wii might have helped," she said with a laugh.

Each class did a practice exercise, then collected all the completed entries for judging at the school before sending them on to the bigger competition.

When the best handwriters across the country were named recently, four of the six winners from North Carolina were St. Mary students.

"I was surprised," said fifth-grader Maggie O'Daniel. "We were sitting in church when they said one of the winners was in fifth grade. I just had this feeling."

"I never win anything," said sixth-grader Karlyn Wolfe, who can no longer say that since being recognized.

Third-grader John Kinsey III was more philosophical.

"I was thinking like 50/50 (chance of winning)," he said.

Considering there were 200,000 entries representing grades 1-8 across the nation, those were pretty good odds.

"When you start doing the writing, you don't think it's going to be here because of how many people are here and they send it off," Karlyn said.

The school's other recipient was Beverly Tabe, a second-grade student. Even at such a young age, she is aware of the importance of good penmanship.

"So when people see my handwriting, it's not too messy and they can't read it," she said.

Each had their own take on the preparation for the contest.

"My class did a lot in cursive," Maggie said. "(Our teacher) gave us a paper and we did a practice one."

"Practice makes perfect," Karlyn added.

"You just glide your hand across the paper," John said.

But, Beverly noted, "Holding (the pencil) the way you're supposed to is really hard."

Maggie tends to agree, admitting to a preference for holding her writing instrument a slightly different way.

"I think it's easier to hold it the way I want to," she said.

Still, none of the contenders could argue about the fact that they are delighted with the recognition for their handwriting efforts.

"I wouldn't have thought it would be me," said Maggie. "I feel proud of myself."

"It just like boosts your confidence," said Karlyn.

Winners were chosen by a panel of professional handwriting experts. Entries were judged on shape, slant, spacing and size.

All state winners will next compete against others in their respective grade levels for the national honors. Ultimately, one of the national grade-level winners will be named Grand National Champion, with his or her teacher being awarded a trip for two to Washington D.C.