|Posted by Anne Siren on January 18, 2013 at 1:50 PM|
Pompano Beach - Benjamin Franklin may have had a respect for the penny, but today most people, banks and businesses find these coins a nuisance.
Not so at Pompano Beach Middle School where the humble penny has reached new heights. It has spurred healthy competition and some irresistible sabotage among eighth graders—and their teachers.
It’s all in fun as these students prepare to face up to the FCAT, Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, this February.
It began with language arts teacher, Karen Karras. She thought it might be a good idea to buy special pencils for the students at test time. For money, she suggested a penny-collection contest between the two eighth grade classes.
That put her and her students against Charles Zimmerman and his students.
Karras wanted pennies only, so she made a rules for the contest: if silver coins were found among the copper coins, the value of the silver would be deducted from the value of the copper.
Competition soon rose to another level. As one class lagged behind, students surreptitiously dropped silver in the jars of the leading class.
Karras admits that she fell victim to the scheme and dropped a five-dollar bill in Zimmerman’s penny jar.
She didn’t get away with it.
“I actually saw her do that,” Zimmerman explains. “I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘You’re not playing fair.’ I actually had to place my hand over my penny jar when she came near or her students showed up.”
Principal Sonja Braziel stayed out of the scandal, hoping only for more pennies, which would lead to the new pencils.
“I liked the excitement shown by the teachers,” Braziel said. “That was even more important. That excitement was showing in the students, and I knew when the test came, the students didn’t want to disappoint their teachers.”
But then a real problem cropped up. When Assistant Principal Karen Karras looked for a bank to cash in the pennies, she kept getting “No Thanks” from area banks.
“I called for two hours,” she said.
Finally she got Wendy Lamb-Labonte, manager of TD Bank, 3600 N. Federal Hwy., Lighthouse Point. LaBonte, a parent herself, got it. She invited the students to use the penny arcade at TD.
On Monday, LaBonte brought in coin collection banks for the teachers along with some pencils and pens. And today, those pennies will be counted and the winning class will be unveiled.
Karras and Zimmerman have a hard time keeping straight faces as they tell this story. Throwing in the idea of silver coins or paper money may have cost points for the opposing classes, but the sabotage fattened the pencil account.
The penny war added something else.
Students have become more active in special seminars for language arts. They participate with vigor, morale is up and a real team spirit prevails, these teachers say.
When the pencils arrive, each student will receive three, each with his or her name printed on them. Karras says she wants the students to take ownership of the essays they will write with these pencils.
She feels good about the entire competition. But when pushed about why she dropped the five-spot into Zimmerman’s penny jar, she answered.
“I wanted to win.”