Friday is recognition day for Knickrehm Elementary students who read at home.
This Friday, that recognition was made extra special with the arrival of six Grand Island Senior High football players — Jacob Garcia, Jake Mayer, Trevor Wojtalewicz, Seth Roberg, Ben Witkowski and Ethan Lemburg — who were fresh off a Thursday night victory over Lincoln North Star.
Knickrehm students who read at home for 15 days get a white ball cap. For each additional 15 days, they get a Knickrehm Cougar “paw print” printed on their cap.
Each Friday, each student who hits another reading milestone is called by name to the front of the gym for recognition. That sets the stage for all Knickrehm students to recite the Knickrehm reading pledge:
“I pledge to be a Knickrehm reader. I will always do my best. Words take me on adventures, soaring to success. I am a Knickrehm reader. Grrr!”
That was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the weekly tunnel walk, in which the students who hit a reading milestone walk among their fellow students to slap palms while the tunnel walk music plays and teachers rhythmically clap their hands.
But on this particular Friday, the six football players led the honored students through the Knickrehm tunnel, slapping palms with every Knickrehm student and staff member in sight.
For Garcia, Mayer and Lemburg, the visit to Knickrehm was a homecoming because that’s the grade school they attended. One of Mayer’s former teachers, fifth-grade teacher Diane Meyer, had a bit of a surprise for him.
When Mayer was a fifth-grader, he won a statewide poster contest. Oftentimes, Gov. Dave Heineman has visited the poster winners. As a result, the teacher took photos of her poster winners posing with the governor. The year Mayer was a fifth-grader, the class won four statewide poster contests, which did indeed bring Heineman to Knickrehm.
As a result, Diane Meyer used her photos of Jake Mayer and the other winners to create a “poster of poster winners.” She still had that poster, which she showed to Mayer, who couldn’t help but get a big smile on his face.
However, the six players didn’t visit Knickrehm just to stroll down memory lane. The high school seniors had been invited to school to encourage the current generation of Knickrehm students to read and work hard in school.
The high school students did that in a variety of ways, sometimes by using those exact words.
Other times, they set the example by answering questions from Knickrehm teachers. The football players said they do lots of reading in high school and have to maintain adequate grades just to be on the football team.
The six football players all plan to go a college after graduating from Senior High. Witkowski plans to attend Hastings College, with Roberg planning to attend an “NAIA school,” each with the intention of playing intercollegiate athletics.
Garcia said he plans to enroll at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he will be part of the Marine ROTC, so he will be a U.S. Marine officer upon graduation. Mayer also plans on going to UNL, but he wants to be a zoologist.
Wojtalewicz isn’t sure where he will go to college, but he wants to study engineering. Lemburg plans to enroll at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he will major in education.
After they left the school gymnasium, the football players split up to visit various classrooms. They formed different combinations as they moved from classroom to classroom until they finally all reunited in the fourth-grade classrooms, which are in an annex next to the main building.
Mayer noted that he, Garcia and Lemburg were the first Knickrehm students to use the annex.
Of course, one of the best ways to encourage students to read is to read a fun book to them. Mayer and Wojtalewicz each took turns reading a book in Heather Gosda’s fifth-grade classroom, with Mayer reading “Duck for President” and Wojtalewicz reading “Dooby Dooby Moo.”
Mayer’s story was about Duck, who was dissatisfied with life on Farmer Brown’s farm. So Duck begins moving up in life until he finally becomes president. However, Duck discovers that being president is very hard work, which gives him a headache. So Duck returns to the farm to write his autobiography.
Wojtalewicz not only read “Dooby Dooby Moo” for Gosda’s fifth-graders but also read it for the fourth-graders. This time, all the animals on Farmer Brown’s farm were involved. They discovered the local county fair was having a talent show, with a trampoline to be awarded to the winners.
So the farm animals practice singing and dancing at night. The cows sing “Dooby dooby, moo. Dooby moo, moo, moo, moo” to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” The sheep, meanwhile, are singing there “Baas” to the tune of “Home on the Range.”
As a result, Wojtalewicz not only got to read to students, he got to sing to them as well.