COPPERAS COVE – With nearly 90,000 elementary schools in the United States, Martin Walker Elementary is one of only 19 elementary schools in the nation to be receive the School of Excellence Award from the American Student Council Association. The chapter is under the advisement of teacher Catherine Sharbeno and librarian Teresa Garrett.
Martin Walker Elementary’s Junior Historian Leadership Council was selected based on its submission of projects that the council completed during the 2019-2020 school year as well as its student council constitution and election procedures. Councils were also required to submit letters of recommendation from their school principal and council president.
Councils are required to take on a minimum of three projects during the school year. Martin Walker Elementary JHLC president Lillianne Chmielewski the event she found most rewarding was the wreath laying for the veterans.
“A lot of the students at Martin Walker have veterans as family, and it was a great way to be involved in the community and spread joy to the family and friends of veterans,” she said.
This year, Martin Walker Elementary’s Veterans Day assembly was completely student-led by the JHLC. Council Co-Adviser Garrett said bringing the two groups together as one was the right decision.
“This year was challenging as we combined our Junior Historians and Student Council. The activities of both groups are similar and rather than have two small groups, we now have one large group,” Garrett said. “We accomplished a lot in our time together. In addition to the veterans’ events, we collected pet supplies, performed a grade level act of kindness, collected food for the Food for Families Drive, rang the bells for Salvation Army, and researched and created History Day projects where we swept up many awards at the state contest. That was so amazing to me because most of them had never done that kind of research or projects before.”
JHLC secretary Everett Zachary enjoyed the educational aspect of the organization.
“My favorite part of JHLC was going to the state capitol. I enjoyed it because I learned new things about Texas government and history in a very interesting way,” Zachary said.
At the Texas Junior Historians Conference, Martin Walker Elementary captured multiple awards from first through fourth place with its student entries and also won Outstanding Chapter. Rising fifth grader Amelia Zachary looks forward to competing again during the 2020-2021 school year.
“The most meaningful thing I experienced this past year was working on projects with a team,” Zachary said. “Listening to each other and coming up with ideas together was hard. But, it paid off with our Junior Historians 9-11 project.”
Each year, the council conducts its legacy project. Over the past four years, the council has painted the school’s playground black top with recess activities including a large U.S. map, two human-sized checkerboards, and four hopscotch courts.
“We leave our legacy project for the end of the year and this year, it did not happen due to the pandemic and learning taking place off campus,” Garrett said. “I want them to leave something they will be remembered by each year. However, this group was so dynamic that I think they will be remembered for quite some time.”