Kindness matters


Kate Washburn’s 3rd- and 4th-grade class at Harrisville Wells Memorial School was excited to learn it was a winner of the Certified Kind Challenge related to the book “Wonder.”

Across the Monadnock Region, you’d be hard-pressed to find a school that doesn’t have a certain book — “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio — on its shelves.

Harrisville Wells Memorial School is no exception. Since the beginning of the school year, Kate Washburn’s 3rd- and 4th-grade class has been reading the book together every day. And they were recently recognized for putting the book’s lessons into practice.

The class was one of 500 around the world selected as a winner of the Certified Kind Challenge that accompanies the book, and one of only five to win the grand prize of a classroom pizza party and $500 to donate to the charity of their choice.

The book tells the story of Auggie, a boy born with facial deformities who must tackle the challenges of attending public school — and dealing with bullies — for the first time.

To enter into the contest, the students filled a “kind jar” by adding a gem every time they saw someone do a kind deed. As they read the book, the class also completed a range of other kindness-related activities, Washburn said, including one in which students wrote compliments for their peers on paper print-outs of Auggie’s helmet from the story.

“There were just lots of conversations about empathy and acceptance and being a leader and lifting somebody up or standing up for somebody, which are huge issues right now that we have in schools,” she said.

Washburn invited Superintendent Robert H. Malay to visit the class on the day they read the last chapter of the book together, and then surprised the students with the news they’d won the grand prize, she said.

“They were hugging each other and smiling and cheering and they were super, super proud,” Washburn said. “I think instead of them receiving the pizza party, what was really neat was that several of the students said the best part is, we get to give money to someone or somebody in need.”

The students chose to give their $500 donation to the Monadnock Humane Society in Swanzey, and on Monday, they’ll take a field trip to visit the shelter and learn about how their donation is helping the animals there.

This is the first year Washburn has used the Certified Kind Challenge in her classroom, but she said she plans to continue incorporating the book — and its lessons — in the future.

“I’ve always been pretty passionate that academics are important, but the foundation of your character and integrity and being kind is equally important if not more,” she said. “And then just establishing those foundational characteristics of who you are as a person is always going to be my work with my class and my future students.”

Two students from the Cheshire Career Center at Keene High School are raising funds to attend the national Educators Rising competition in Dallas, Texas, this month. The school’s Educators Rising club provides opportunities for students interested in pursuing careers in education to participate in conventions and competitions on the topic.

At the state contest in March, Trae Fisher and Mikaila Emmond took third place in the “researching learning challenges” category, which required them to write a research-supported paper offering recommendations for supporting students with intellectual disabilities.

To donate to their online fundraiser, visit

The 1st-grade class at Trinity Christian School in Keene elected its own mayor last month, and even received a visit from Keene Mayor Kendall Lane.

Class Mayor Jasper Ruczko welcomed Lane to the school May 13 and gave him a tour of the classrooms and church. Lane took questions from the 1st- and 2nd-graders and read them a story about the Statue of Liberty.

Lane also spoke with middle school students at Trinity Christian, and discussed the effects of Sept. 11 on security concerns in the United States ahead of the students’ trip to New York City and Boston.

One lucky student was the recipient of a car from the Fenton Family DealershipsMonadnock Regional High School Car Giveaway last month.

According to Principal Lisa Spencer, Fenton Family Dealerships has been sponsoring the program for several years. This year’s winner was senior Anamaria Pananas, she said, who won a black Toyota Corolla during a special event hosted on the school’s football field May 30.

Students earned tickets this year based on academics, behavior, attendance and participation in extracurricular activities, Spencer said. The school then chose 10 students who already have driving privileges, and the dealership provided nine keys that did not work and one that did. Students picked an envelope and hoped that their key opened the car.

Spencer described Pananas as “such a wonderful young woman who will most definitely do amazing things in the future.”

What’s going on in your school? Education reporter Meg McIntyre can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or

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