‘They were willing to give’: Washington County fifth graders help struggling classmates

ST. GEORGE — Because it’s not always the case that fifth graders put others first, the fifth graders at Majestic Fields Elementary School blew their teachers away when they decided to help one struggling class win the prize every elementary schooler dreams of – a pizza party. 

Madelyn Bybee’s fifth grade class at Majestic Fields Elementary School won their school’s Penny Wars contest on Dec. 18, 2020. The school raised more than $3,000 for Kony Coins For Kids. | Photo courtesy of Travis Wilstead, St. George News.

The Majestic Fields PTA coordinated a “Penny Wars” competition to promote kindness and celebrate Christmas by giving back to the community, PTA President Tattiana Gray told St. George News. As a whole, the school raised more than $3,000 for Kony Coins For Kids, she said. The class with the most points won a pizza party and bragging rights. 

“Whenever we do class competitions, they’re usually really competitive. They want to win,” Gray said. “But they were willing to give it up this time.” 

For several months, fifth grade teacher Madelyn Bybee had been sick and absent, leaving her students in the care of substitutes. To help out, the other three fifth grade teachers volunteered to divide Bybee’s students into their own classes, leaving each class with more than 30 students each, Gray said. When the time came to play Penny Wars – a competition where each team has a bucket to fill with pennies, where one penny counts as a point and dollar bills count as negative points – the other fifth grade classes decided they wanted to help Bybee’s class win instead of taking the glory for themselves. 

“They held their donations until the second to last day so they could see where the rest of the school stood,” Principal Travis Wilstead said. “By holding off, they were able to see what they needed to put in to win. It was pretty fun to see them do it and to problem solve.”

Over the five days leading up to Christmas break, each class in the school brought in coins to put in their own buckets and dollar bills to add to other classes’ buckets to stall their competitors. For the first three days, it looked like Bybee’s class was being left in the dust, having collected only 3,673 points, about 9,000 points behind the leading class. 

But on the last two days more money began to suddenly appear in the class’s bucket. They won with 29,213 points, or $292.13. The class in second place had 14,204 points. The winners were announced on Dec. 18, and the entire grade jumped and cheered when Bybee’s class was called, as shown in a video on the school’s Facebook page. Kids were calling their parents and asking them to bring pennies to put in Bybee’s bucket, Gray said.

“We are so proud of the fifth grade,” she said. “It wasn’t just a few kids, it was really the whole grade.”

The teachers stepped up too, Wilstead said, by supporting the students’ decision to help Bybee’s class and by voluntarily taking on extra students and responsibilities so Bybee could focus on getting better. The teachers approached Wilstead just before Thanksgiving and told him they wanted to each take some of Bybee’s students so they could get the attention they needed, Wilstead said.

My first reaction was, ‘That puts your classes at over 30,’” Wilstead said. “They said, ‘We know, but it’s what the kids need to progress.’ I’ve seen teachers step up and help each other out before, but never like this, never voluntarily take eight kids each because the kids needed it. It was pretty awesome to see.”

After the students return to school from winter break, Bybee’s class will get their pizza party and the school will give the money to Coins For Kids. 

Because Coins For Kids has already completed its program for the year, the money from Majestic Fields will go into the pool for next year, Coins For Kids President Carl Lamar said. Coins For Kids accepts donations all year long. Donations can be made here.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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