Bush responds to students’ letters

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 18, 2004

MURFREESBORO – When students in Rhodara Jackson’s second grade class at Riverview Elementary School completed a routine curriculum assignment to practice writing a letter to the President, they weren’t expecting them to go beyond the four walls of their classroom, much less solicit a response from anyone at Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

Last November, in a section dedicated to teaching students about the process of electing government officials, students took the time to sit down and share their individual thoughts, feelings and questions to the nation’s leader.

&uot;I thought it would be a fun thing to do,&uot; said Jackson with a smile. &uot;The students really enjoyed writing the letters and paid a lot of attention to detail. When they were finished writing them, they expressed a desire to send them out and since they worked so hard on the assignment I didn’t see any reason why we shouldn’t.&uot;

The students’ letters echoed the desire for a Presidential visit to their school; reflecting a very personal tone with information about themselves, their teacher and the school’s administration and directed questions to George Bush himself, inquiring about the types of activities he enjoys doing with his family and how he feels about looking out for the interests of the whole country.

&uot;When we wrote to the President, I thought he was not going to send us back,&uot; said second grade student Doneisha Bishop. &uot;Then when Ms. Jackson came back with a package, I was surprised.&uot;

The package contained a variety of items from photos of the President and First Lady, The White House, First Dog and Air Force One to bookmarks, stickers, addresses of former Presidents, examples of the Presidential and Vice Presidential seals, a list of the Presidential powers and duties and a copy of the Bill of Rights.

&uot;We were all pleasantly surprised to receive the response we did,&uot; said Jackson. &uot;It was a great encouragement for the students to be recognized by The White House. It really made them feel special.&uot;

In their own words, students described their experience as being, &uot;cool,&uot; &uot;neat,&uot; and &uot;exciting.&uot; One student, Kevontea Bishop, recounted how she even &uot;jumped up and down&uot; when her class received the package, while classmate Shannon Spiers expressed her happiness, stating that she was &uot;very proud of (her) class&uot; for choosing to follow through on the task.

&uot;It was like writing a letter to someone that we know,&uot; said student Jasmine Brown. &uot;It was very fun&uot;

In an effort to maximize the learning in her classroom, Jackson encouraged students to conduct their own election by using the model covered in their government unit for electing some of their own classmates to positions of class president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.

&uot;The students mirrored the concepts in the electoral process to select members of their class to oversee the affairs of the classroom,&uot; she said Jackson. &uot;We got the parents involved to help them with their campaign promotion and the students elect the people they felt would best represent the rules they designed to govern their class.&uot;

Jackson expressed gratitude regarding the incredible level of support she received over the past two years while serving at Riverview and commented that continual encouragement of the school’s administration to employ creativity in teaching methods has allowed her the freedom to create a learning environment that is exciting and captivating to her students.

&uot;Being allowed the freedom to teach in different ways provides students with the opportunity to become more engaged and as a result they are more interested in the subject matter and retain more of what they are learning. This project is a perfect example of that,&uot; she said.

According to Jackson, the students also wrote letters to both North Carolina Senators John Edwards and Elizabeth Dole.

&uot;So far, only Senator Edwards has responded, but it takes time for the Senators to respond to all the requests that are being forwarded to them,&uot; she said.

On Tuesday, the school received the gift of an American flag that was especially flown over the United States Capitol on Valentine’s Day.

Jackson stated that the enthusiasm demonstrated by her students regarding the governmental processes has continued to grow and highlighted the pivotal role that parents play in the development of their children.

&uot;We as adults sometimes ignore or neglect the value of our own knowledge and experience in regard to teaching the younger generations about good citizenship. It’s important that parents continue to be involved with all aspects of their children’s development,&uot; stated Jackson.

She added, &uot;It’s good that these students are learning about the election process, but lessons like these should not be limited to students in the second grade. The election process and the workings of the government are things every citizen of America should be informed about in order to promote the healthy function of society.&uot;

Prior to teaching second grade at Riverview, Jackson worked as a pre-kindergarten teacher for four years in Norfolk, Virginia Public Schools.