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January 24, 1992 - Image 76

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-01-24

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

EDUCATION

Cheryl Blati's
Fifth Gracie

ti

The Magical
World Of
Classroom 121

AMY J. MEHLER

Staff Writer

T

here were 10 minutes
to go before the bell
rang, but 10-year-old
Melissa Levi hurried out of
her red-and-white snow
jacket and rushed inside her
fifth-grade classroom at
Leonhard Elementary
School.
The sound of soft jazz piano
and guitar music filled the

MOM.

First in an occasional
series about life in the
fifth grade.

Down the hall dashed
Douglas Burda and Danny
Weiss, still chewing on 10-
cent bagels the volunteers
from Leonhard's Parent
Teacher Association sell
every Friday morning.
Inside the classroom,
Marlon Gisi and Josh Linton
were enjoying a heated
discussion on the Detroit
Tigers. Marlon defended the
honor of Cecil Fielder. "He
hit 51 homers," he shouted,
a little red in the face.
Marlene Jajou and Anita
Alosachi inspected each
other's lunches from the tops
of their desks. A couple feet
away sat Jonelle Thomas
and Jennifer Kurland, their
heads buried deep in books.
Dwight Levens and Justin
Moses kept looking at the
clock.
Standing in the doorway
was the teacher, Cheryl
Blau, 30, shaking hands
with each student, a wide

76

FRIDAY, JANUARY 24, 1992

smile on her face. She was
wearing the same outfit she
wears every school spirit
day: a black-and-yellow let-
tered Leonhard sweatshirt; a
black skirt; opaque, black
tights; little, black-ribbed
socks; and a pair of low-
heeled black boots.
Melissa said good morning
and dropped her knapsack, a
heavy vinyl book bag bulg-
ing with all sorts of fifth-
grade necessities — see-
through rulers, pink and red
folders, pencil boxes with
animal stickers on them, a
packet of crayons, green-
and-white striped suckers.
"For emergencies," Melissa
explained.
Rodrick Hobbs and
Michael Moses stopped pok-
ing each other long enough
to notice Miss Blau had
hung their "Why I Am Spe-
cial and Unique" posters,
fashioned after medieval
shields out of construction
paper.
One student, in a "car axi-
dent (sic)," decided that made
him unique. "I'm good in
math, 2 +2 +4," someone else
wrote.
Tiffany Edwards stood

next to another wall covered
with "Twenty-five Reasons
To Be Happy." She drew pic-
tures of some of her favorite
things: pizzas, TVs, books,
friends, Miss Blau.
Suddenly, the bell rang
and Miss Blau walked in.
"I'd like to thank everyone
this morning for signing in,"
she said smiling, looking at
the class attendance jar.
Melissa glanced over to the
round table in the corner.
Miss Blau's attendance jar
was dwarfed by a long, black
guitar case, a big, round
globe and a cardboard box
full of shiny coins Miss Blau
had brought back from
Thailand. Against the wall
hung a huge world map.
Jasleen Kishmish and
Sherry Kraft were there,
sticking their clothespins
around the side of a large,
round metal jar Miss Blau
uses to count attendance.
Melissa squirmed in her
seat, finally settling into a
cross-legged position.
A voice boomed over the
intercom. The class rose to
its feet. "I pledge allegiance
to the flag of the United
States of America . . . " they

Cheryl Blau leads class in discussion on "Hershel and the
Hanukkah Goblins."

Photos by Glenn Triest

—4

L to R: Rodrick Hobbs and
pal, Dwight Levens, steal a
break from instrumental
music class.

recited. The class stood
erect, hands against their
hearts, saying it like they
meant it. When it was over,
they sat down. Miss Blau put
the music back on.
"I'll be coming around now
to check journals," she an-
nounced while she gathered
supplies.
Melissa lifted the top of
her new brown desk and
pulled out a green, spiral
notebook. Thumbing to an
empty page, she took out a
pointy, yellow pencil and bit
down hard on the eraser.
Yanking on the ends of her
straight brown ponytail, she
looked up toward the ceiling.
A dimple dented her cheek.
"If I married a billionaire,"
her pencil scratched, "I
would live in a manchine (sic)
with a pool in the back and
tennis courts on the side. I
would have six big, black
German shepherds outside
so burglars couldn't come
in."
Every morning, the 26
boys and girls in Miss Blau's

fifth grade escape into the
pages of their journals,
recording the vignettes of
everyday life, dreaming up
adventures far away from
their Southfield classroom.
Marlon, a child of 10, fan-
tasized about playing for the
Detroit Tigers. Brown-
haired, brown-eyed
Elizabeth Mathis Rogers
dreamed of a career as a
fashion model. Her desk
partner, Anita, couldn't
decide between becoming a
fashion designer or a lawyer.
"I know, I can be both," she
said, tossing back her long,
black hair.
Miss Blau was coming
around with a stamp pad.
She had to weave in between
clusters of desks. "Over
here, Miss Blau" . . . "I want
to show you something, Miss
Blau" . . . "Guess what I did
last night" . . . students
clamored.
No one was worried, be-
cause Miss Blau gets to
everyone, bending over each
desk to read the journal en-
tries. "I like that, Chantal,"
Miss Blau said, shaking
Chantal Shaw's hand. Chan-
tal had a dream she needed

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