Teaching tip: pair high school students with prekindergarteners for literacy and art activities  

Wallkill Valley Regional High School’s National English Honor Society and graphic art students create books for preschoolers

Led by English teacher and faculty adviser Jennifer Grabowski, the Randy Pausch chapter of the National English Honor Society (NEHS) at Wallkill Valley Regional High School implemented a children’s book project for the district’s preschool students. NEHS members created a story about the preschool students taking a field trip to the zoo with their teacher, Anmarie DeGiovanni.  

The high school student’s mission was to write the book, have the visual arts students illustrate it, and have it bound and published by the school for presentation to the preschoolers as a graduation gift for June 2023.  

“When the NEHS came up with the idea to write a book for the children in our child development class, I couldn’t wait to get started!” says senior Nicole DeFinis. “Being in charge of this project reminded me of how much the National English Honor Society makes a positive difference in our school.” 

DeFinis explained that each NEHS member was assigned a child and provided with their favorite color and animal. After the high school students wrote the stories, the draft was sent to Chris Stefanski’s art class to be illustrated. Stefanski is the vice president of the Wallkill Valley Education Association (WVEA). With the help of math and engineering teacher Pete Schornstaedt, the binding was complete. Schornstaedt is the WVEA secretary.  

Each preschooler received their own signed copy after the NEHS students came in and personally read the book about them.  

“It was a fun and exciting experience,” DeFinis says. “I loved seeing everyone on the NEHS book committee working together to create such a special memory for the kids. The children can now look back on this book that was made just for them for the rest of their lives.”  

Grabowski said that she is honored to work with such a great group of dedicated, self-motivated, hard-working students, and is happy to assist them in their efforts to develop a growing community of individuals passionate about English studies. 

“Every day my students remind me of the importance of giving back to the community,” Grabowski says. “It is so wonderful to see our youth embrace each service project as their way of sharing their gifts with those in need. They are truly an inspiration to the Wallkill Valley community, and I couldn’t ask for more.”  

The NEHS chapter at Wallkill Valley typically has service projects going on multiple fronts. Members have tutored students struggling with their English classes, organized holiday writing contests for students, and have written letters to veterans for a Veterans Day dinner at Sussex County Community College and to teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.  

In addition, the NEHS students held a book sale in the school’s cafeteria as a fundraising endeavor and organized a station at the table to write letters to the children at St. Jude’s Hospital for the holiday season. The NEHS members also collected school supplies for backpacks that were later filled and given to students in need at Family Promise of Sussex County this past September.  

“Their service to the organization has not only helped them develop strong leadership skills but has enabled them to strive for academic excellence and given them an opportunity to utilize their literary expertise for the benefit of others—an accomplishment that would make any teacher proud!” Grabowski concluded.