Our O.A.R. essay contest is over now, and the three winners were surprised Friday when two of the band members, Marc Roberge and Benj Gershman, dropped in for unannounced school visits.
First up was Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary School in East Harlem, where Dianna Baez was sitting quietly in the front row of her 8th grade classroom. The whole class burst into cheers when Marc and Benj came in and told the kids that their teacher, Ms. Lillian Diaz, had been the subject of one of the winning Best Teacher Award essays. Ms. Diaz got a plaque and the school got a check for $5,000, but the winning student hadn’t been announced yet.
When Marc told the class that Dianna had written the winning essay, Dianna pointed to herself and said, “Me?” disbelievingly. Then Marc handed her a gift bag with her prize, an iPod, and she jumped up from her desk to thank Marc and Benj.
Next was St. Paul School, a few blocks away on E. 118th Street. This time, the whole school gathered in the auditorium for a “special assembly.” Once all the children were seated quietly, Principal Charles Celaro reminded them about the essay contest they had worked on a few weeks ago. Then Marc and Benj announced that Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Gracia Castro, was one of the winning teachers. The entire auditorium was filled with the sounds of shouting and clapping as Ms. Castro went up to receive her award and a $5,000 check for the school. And then another big cheer went up when Kindergarten student, Faeez Sharwah, was called up and presented with an iPod for his winning essay about Ms. Castro. Faeez was a little shy standing up in front of the whole school, but his face broke into a huge grin when he ran back to his classmates and showed off his prize.
Just a short trip over the Willis Avenue Bridge to the Bronx, and O.A.R. was at the final school, Immaculate Conception, on E. 151st Street. Then it was straight up to the 4th grade classroom, where the winning student, Saba Isidore, and her teacher, Ms. Nicole Roth, got their awards. After Saba read the class her essay, the students sang a song for their guests and then had tons of questions for Marc and Benj. They asked everything from “Do you get nervous before you go onstage?” to “What celebrity do you most want to meet?” and “Do you think we could be singers too?” To the final question, Marc answered that the children could be anything they wanted to be, provided they worked hard and kept a positive attitude.
Thank you to the hundreds of children who participated in the essay contest! There’s no question that there are some wonderful teachers out there, and their students really appreciate them.
Dianna Baez, 8th grade winner
Faeez Sharwah with Benj Gershman and Marc Roberge
Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Castro, with Benj and Marc
Immaculate Conception Principal Sister Patrice Owens; Benj Gershman, Saba Isidore, Nicole Roth, and Marc Roberge