BRADENTON -- Six rows of Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary fourth-graders spilled out of their chairs Friday morning as they excitedly waited to learn who among them would win free laptop computers as a prize for quality work in a writing contest.
"Settle down, you guys are getting rowdy," a teacher said, halfheartedly. But how could they settle down when local author Zoe Bowie was preparing to present eight laptops to a lucky few?
Bowie, author of the children's book "My Father, My Son," has visited fourth-grade classrooms to teach creative writing for the past three months. She'd promised two computers per class to students that best incorporated her lessons in an essay contest about a character that could change the world.
"After talking to these kids, I came to the understanding that they
didn't have computers," said Bowie, who had expressed a desire to become involved with the elementary school students to Principal Doug DuPouy earlier this year. "I just felt it was a calling."
DuPouy said Bowie worked with students on staying on topic and character development, and that the contest was primarily judged by Bowie.
"You have been inspired by your teachers and Ms. Bowie to do your best each and every day in writing," he told students Friday, as he held up a homemade book of student stories and flowers that would be presented to Bowie.
Because Bowie was running a little late, DuPouy presented the laptops to the eight students, one of whom was absent. Students squealed with excitement and faces dropped when their names weren't called. But the winners couldn't keep the smiles off their faces.Winner Jessica Ibarra-Perez, 9, said Friday that she enjoyed Bowie as a teacher."She told us our names were really important, that they have meaning." Ibarra-Perez said. Then she started to describe her story.
"It's about Supergirl, and she helps poor people ..."
Ibarra Perez broke off: "I just don't remember the rest because I'm really excited."Lizbeth Martinez, 10, imagined that Carly, the star of the Nickelodeon show "iCarly," fought cancer for her story. "I'm going to play games on my laptop," she said. "And I'm going to work on my projects for class."
Bowie, who lives across the street from the elementary school on 30th Avenue West, said the idea of the assignment was to get students to look at the world around them and express it creatively through words.
"I wanted them to take a character and learn how to develop it," Bowie said. "Everyone wrote beautifully. I had to put them aside and come back to them to choose."
Other winners Friday included Tamia Sims, Kimberly Maldonado, Danielle Buck-Hallman, Angie Canales, Alicia Soto and Omar Nunez.
Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.