Pupils win awards for dotted I's, crossed T's

Two area kids recognized in state contest in handwriting

April 14, 2006|By KRISTI FUNDERBURK | KRISTI FUNDERBURK,SUN REPORTER

Practice may not always make perfect, but in Peter Schultz's case, it can make you the best at handwriting in your class - and in all of Maryland, for that matter.

The second-grader at St. Agnes School in Catonsville was one of three Baltimore County pupils and one of seven statewide to win the 15th annual Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest.

The contest, sponsored by an educational publisher offering penmanship instruction, judges the slant, shape, spacing and size of contestants' lettering.

For 8-year-old Peter, it's the culmination of years of working hard to perfect his printing. Hands stuffed in pockets and short on words, the youngster says winning the handwriting contest made him feel "awesome." He's labored over his letters "so people can read my handwriting better."

The contest is open only to elementary and middle schools that teach the Zaner-Bloser handwriting method, and this year 153,000 pupils nationwide took part.

According to contest rules on the firm's Web site, pupils in first and second grade, like Peter, had to print their name, copy a sentence and, in their best manuscript, explain why legible handwriting is important. Older participants were required to fill out a similar form, but in cursive. One pupil per grade was selected to enter the contest. Winners from the regional contest will compete nationally.

Another pupil who won the contest, Katherine Mullin, 12, a sixth-grader at St. Joseph's School in Fullerton, smiles with braces on her teeth as she recites a similar answer to what she wrote on her entry form: "Everything can be legible and organized. I'm glad my work is done right. You know you can take pride in your work."

Both St. Agnes and St. Joseph's stress handwriting. The pupils take handwriting classes in addition to standard classes like science and math. St. Joseph's Assistant Principal Rose Michaud said the school always participates in the contest and usually has winners.

Katherine is used to practicing her handwriting at home, too. Her mother encourages her to write letters to her friends rather than use the computer.

"I want them to always be able to write," Katherine's mother, Mary Jo Mullin, said of her children, noting that her own skills have faded from computer use.

"Writing could come in handy," Katherine said. She recalled portraying a nurse on "Biography Day" at St. Joseph's and thought that if she had to take medical notes, people would need to read her handwriting.

Mullin says her daughter "always had beautiful handwriting."

To his handwriting teacher, Georgia Kraning, Peter stands out as well.

"I'm proud, and he's cute as anything," said Kraning, who sometimes calls Peter "Schultzy baby."

She says the nickname is a part of the playfulness she uses in teaching "that brings them out," especially with kids like Peter who are quiet at the beginning of the year. Peter doesn't seem to mind. Kraning said he brought her a card on Valentine's Day that said "To Miss Georgia, From Schultzy baby."

The regional winners receive a framed certificate and an engraved pen, although Peter's holding out for the $500 savings bond that will be awarded to the national winner.

Katherine's certificate is waiting in the school office until May 23, when St. Joseph's is having a schoolwide awards assembly where Katherine and her peers will be recognized for their recent achievements.

kristi.funderburk@baltsun.com

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