By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Getting kids to read can sometimes be like getting them to eat their veggies; you have to resort to bribery every now and then.
“We told them that each grade level had to read all week, and any grade with better than 85 percent participation, their teacher would compete in a tricycle race,” said Cathy Strople, the school's reading specialist.
It was easily the big event of the marking period, a Teacher Trike Race Reading Grand Prix of sorts, with two qualifying heats and a final raceoff, pitting the two winners against school Principal Tom Poliseno.
Students lined both sides of the gym, some of them waving signs in support of teachers, all of them lost in the high-test chanting that echoed throughout the gym, the volume accelerating as the teachers in the first heat mounted their trikes and waited for the whistle.
Racers included: Kindergarten teacher Lauren Goldsmith; teacher aide Linda Reinelt;
Grade 2 teacher David Townsend; Grade 3 teacher Linda Wells; Grade 4 teacher Jen Gingras and Grade 5 teacher Paul Williams.
The final battle, between Williams, Poliseno, and Goldsmith, ended with a bit of suspense, when Williams reached the finish first but waited for the others to catch up before gliding through the yellow tape and snatching victory from Poliseno.
Poliseno was a good sport about the loss, although he suggested that if Williams ends up with an extra recess duty, for the record, it's pure coincidence.
Ultimately, of course, the motivational fun was meant to underscore the efforts of the students, who are eager readers – the school's 2010 New England Common Assessment Program scores show 85 percent of students are reading at “proficient” or “proficient with distinction” levels, a 10 percent improvement over last year's scores.
Poliseno credited Strople for her innovative and creative response to the students' good work.
Strople credited Poliseno, for making it so easy to find new ways to embarrass him in front of the students – something that's always done in the spirit of school mascot EDD: the Owl – with respect, responsibility and safety.
“Sure, it's fun to put Mr. Poliseno on the spot. But really, I'm just happy that the kids love to read,” Strople said.