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The City Journals

Butler readers make ice cream sundae out of their principal

Apr 03, 2018 06:45PM ● By Julie Slama

More chocolate syrup, please. Every Butler first-grader who read 100 books by the 100th day of school got to help make an ice cream sundae on top of their principal, Jeff Nalwalker. (Photo courtesy Jeff Nalwalker)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]


The 100thday of school probably came and went for most students, filled with the typical reading, writing and arithmetic — except for some excited Butler first-graders.

In keeping with the 18-year tradition, every first-grader who read 100 books by the 100thday of school got to help make an ice cream sundae Feb. 5 on top of their principal.

This year, Butler’s new principal, Jeff Nalwalker, got the honor of several toppings, marshmallows, raisins, chocolate chips and whipping cream.

“He even got a cherry placed on top of his nose,” said first-grade dual immersion teacher Lori Roper, who thought of the incentive to get students to read. “Every principal has done it or had someone do it for them. They’re good sports about it and said it’s worth it and ask what they can do to help.”

Nalwalker, who wore a hazmat-protective coat, even rolled around on the ground, mixing in his toppings, so more cereal and toppings could be added, she said.

Roper said that students brought toppings, first to decorate their principal, then to save a little so they could have it on top of their own scoop of ice cream to celebrate their reading accomplishment.

The list of books they read was hung in the hallway.

“We had some students finish as early as November. They were going gangbusters and were so excited for this day,” she said. “I’ve had former students say they remember this day as one of their highlights in school.”

The books the student read — on or above their reading level — could be ones they own at home, borrowed from the library or checked out from class.

“We’ve seen a huge advancement in their reading scores,” Roper said, adding that 53 of the 56 students she teaches earned the right to help decorate the principal this year.

She said initially traditional classroom teachers didn’t push reading and the incentive, so only about half the students attended the activity and their scores didn’t show reading improvement. Now, all Butler first-grade teachers encourage students to achieve the goal, Roper said.

The 100thday also included 100-day activities such as asking students to estimate how much 100 pennies weigh, where they would be if they took 100 steps toward the playground, tackle 100 math problems or puzzles and others ranging from seeing if they could be still for 100 seconds to 100 different physical activities they could accomplish. Once they completed all of these, students were awarded additional recess time.

The reading effort doesn’t end with the 100thday, Roper said.

When students read for 100 days, they can participate in the eight-year tradition of participating in a water day with slip-and-slide, relay races, water balloons and more. This year’s water day is scheduled for May 24.

“We want to keep the momentum going and have them read every night. It makes a huge difference. It helps their fluency and their ability to read. It opens up a world of vocabulary for them,” she said

Roper said that even the children who struggle to read can count decodable books they’ve read. And for those who have time restraints, she works with them to ensure they have the opportunity to succeed.

“This works. It’s highly motivating, they’re reading and loving it,” she said. “It’s all for the kids. They love it.”