Runkle parent Linda Carlisle reports on the 2009 Living History Museum

There they all were. From Genghis Khan to rapper Kanye West, with Albert Einstein, author Pearl Buck, Charles Darwin, Amelia Earhart, Queen Elizabeth I, Coco Chanel and Steve Martin in between. Segway inventor Dean Kamen also made an appearance.

After eight weeks of preparation, 54 sixth graders stood on risers in front of more than 100 family members, teachers and administrators, ready to give a short introduction of their characters, in the style and voice of the person they had become during the project. For most, this was their first public speech. They were well prepared for this moment, the annual capstone event for sixth graders at the John D. Runkle School.

I am a parent of one of these students, and by an accident of availability and interest, had the gift of helping the teachers in the classroom during the project. It gave me a bird’s eye view of the commitment and dedication of the three sixth-grade teachers: language arts teacher Geri Belle, who developed this project and who is able to draw out the best of this varied group of 11- and 12-year-olds; Maxine Hunter (science and social studies), who holds everyone to high standards and is innovative in her teaching; and Saeed Ola (math and social studies), the terrific, newest member of the team, who uses humor while piling on the homework. Together — with thoughtfulness, intelligence, hard work, creativity, and big doses of humor and sternness — they push kids to stay focused and learn.

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