St. Peter claims two handwriting champs

BEAUFORT — St. Peter School is the home of not one, but two handwriting champions.

Nathan Dardes and Mary Sinsheimer were named the state handwriting winners for their age groups in the 17th annual Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest.

Nathan is in first grade and Mary is a second-grader. Both students will compete for the title of National Winner, which also is awarded at grade levels one through eight.  

Bill Gabrielson, principal, said both of the children are strong students. He said it takes self-discipline, hand-eye coordination and good instruction to win the competition.

This is the first year that St. Peter has entered the contest, Gabrielson said. “We were very pleased to get this level of recognition.”  

More than 177,000 students participated in the cursive showdown this year.

“Studies show that handwriting instruction improves students’ overall performance in reading comprehension and writing skills,” said Dennis Williams, the national product manager for Zaner-Bloser learning materials.

Gabrielson said both public and private schools still have strong writing programs but wonders if cursive will one day go the way of calligraphy and be relegated to an interesting art form.

He noted that young adults, more in tune with writing via a keypad, already use mostly print or a blend of print and cursive.  

Nathan and Mary each received a certificate of recognition for their accomplishment and the school earned a $50 gift certificate for Zaner-Bloser learning materials. The students also were honored at a mini-awards ceremony during weekly prayers, Gabrielson said.

Each national winner will receive a Nintendo DS Brain Age game package, a $500 savings bond, a certificate and T-shirts. The winning school is awarded a $100 certificate for learning materials.

Gabrielson also noted how well Catholic schools did in the competition for teacher of the year.

Ana Ward, who teaches middle-school Spanish at St. Peter; and Louise Garrison, a K-5 teacher at St. Anne in Rock Hill, were both finalists.   

Shirlee Bills, a second-grade teacher from St. Anne School in Sumter, was named Elementary School Teacher of the Year.

“Catholic membership (in South Carolina Independent School Association) is relatively small, so it was a real feather in our cap to be such a strong presence,” he said.