Milton Elementary School students, staff praised for Right-to-Read Week

To the Editor:

 If anyone wants to know what is right about education one only has to visit Milton Elementary School in Milton Center, Ohio. As a visiting author from Charlotte, N.C., I was invited to Milton School as the culminating "event" for their Right-to-Read Week. As author of It Happened on the Oregon Trail, I wrapped up the week's activities with an author visit. I have never seen a school quite like Milton Elementary - and I call upon a lot of schools.

 You might describe Milton as "Small, but mighty." If it were ever suggested that it be closed then those who would make such a decision should have their heads examined. Just take a walk through the halls and you will see a learning environment comparable to none other.

 Principal George Offenburg sets the tone. The respect the he has for his teachers, staff, students and parents must be key to the energy they all have for education. He supports all their enthusiastic endeavors whole-heartedly and gets involved with the students activities.

 Reading specialist Clione Schneider, along with 2nd grade teacher Terri Kale and 3rd grade teacher Becky Canterbury, worked tirelessly for months to coordinate a western theme for their Right-to-Read Week. The student body, teachers, and several parents went on various field trips during the week.

 There was rope making with Jenny Morlock from 4-H, cider making with a representative from Wood County Parks, games from the past with a staff member from the Wood County Historical Museum, and they each made a toy from the past with Marcia Whalen, the gifted services instructor. There was also a presentation on Wood County and Ohio by Mike McMaster from the historical museum. The children got to weave on a loom, and they examined animal pelts brought in by Holly Spencer, a parent. She also cooked bean soup on an open fire pit.

 What pleased me the most was the turnout at the intergenerational evening program. Three generations of Miltonites attended to partake in pioneer experiences at hands-on stations set up around the gym. The children ended the evening by singing a rendition of the patriotic songs led by music teacher, Heather Kramer.

 Every teacher utilized the Oregon Trail theme in all areas of the curriculum. Noreen Overholt, the art teacher, had the school walls absolutely covered with the children's beautiful artwork. She brought in her collection of "old-fashioned" toys to share with the students, which was a big hit. Even the gym teacher, Darlene Allen, had them running laps to earn "miles" to travel the 2,000-mile trail. All of this was done to encourage the students to read.

 Additionally, the students could "purchase" provisions such as blankets, cups, plates, etc. by earning tickets by reading books (for the primary grades) and pages (for the intermediate grades).

 The Right-to-Read Week activities were supported by community organizations and businesses with grants.

 And the best of all, you have never seen children so excited about learning and wanting to read about the west. The students' responses to the creative writing lesson were brilliant and their enthusiasm was overflowing. Here is a small school whose heart is as big as the U. S. of A. Go Milton! Keep up the good work.

Tricia Martineau Wagner 
Charlotte, N.C

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 in the Sentinel-Tribune