Each night, Dorothy Geathers sits down with her twin granddaughters, Candace and Claudaya Hood-Bey, and diligently watches them do their homework.
“It helps me a lot,” Candace said. “Every night I do homework she tells to write it as neat as possible.”
Practice has made perfect for Candace, a seventh-grade student at St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School in Hampden. She recently won the Maryland portion of a national handwriting contest sponsored by Zaner-Bloser Educational Publishers.
School Sister of Notre Dame Marie Rose Gustatus, principal of the school, watched with pride as Candace phoned her grandmother April 7 to tell her the news.
“Hi, Mommy. I won the state handwriting contest,” Candace said.
Candace turned to the principal and her staff and said, “She’s crying.”
Geathers later called them “tears of joy.”
“Some people say it takes a village to raise a child,” Geathers said. “That’s not a joke. That’s the truth.”
Candace and Claudaya’s mother died when they were 2 years old, leaving Geathers to raise the children.
“I want the best for them,” Ms. Geathers said. “I realize being a mother and a grandmother and being there 24-7 is not easy, but it’s a joy.”
Candace achieves success in the classroom as an honor roll student. She also is an altar server at St. Thomas Aquinas and works in the school office.
When Sister Marie Rose announced that Candace won the contest, classes erupted into applause. Candace even allowed herself to enjoy the moment by clapping along.
“I look forward to coming to school here each day,” Candace said of St. Thomas Aquinas. “I like all the teachers. They’re all supportive.”
Candace’s winning entry is now eligible for a national prize, which will be judged by grade level. Children who submitted entries had to copy a paragraph supplied to them and then also create their own original handwriting example as well.
The contest has been sponsored by Zaner-Bloser Educational Publishers, a leader in handwriting materials, for the last 18 years.
Technology has dramatically altered the way people communicate the written word, but Sister Marie Rose said Candace can be an example for others.
“One child said, ‘this looks good for our school that someone did this well,’ ” Sister Marie Rose said. “You think handwriting isn’t important, but it is important even though we have the computers.”
Candace was to be celebrated May 15 at a school Mass. As the state winner, she received a wood pen, a framed award certificate and a $50 gift certificate for Zaner-Bloser materials.
Second-grade teacher Susan Smith, who instructs students in the basics of handwriting, spearheaded St. Thomas Aquinas’ participation in the contest. She said Candace’s handwriting is textbook worthy.
“It’s almost perfect,” said Smith. “Every letter is formed beautifully. It’s very clear writing. She’s the perfect example of how to form the letters.”
Angie Kaufman, Candace’s homeroom teacher for the last two years, said Candace’s success is a reflection of family love and dedication.
“She gives a good appearance in whatever she’s doing,” Ms. Kaufman said. “She carries herself well and holds her head up high. She’s matured into a very nice, young lady who is a real leader in her class.”