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Sponsor A Teacher Essay Contest. And the winners are...

$500 - 1st Place Winner:
Victoria Malczak-Hooks
Butler Intermediate High School
Prize for First Place Winner, Victoria Malczak-Hooks.

NexTier Bank presents award to First Place Winner, Victoria Malczak-Hooks.

(Left to Right) NexTier Bank's Chief Marketing Officer, Maria Amoruso, 1st Place Winner - Victoria, and NexTier Bank President & CEO, Clem Rosenberger.


As the 7th grade English students board the bus for their adventure, they persistently ask their teacher where they are going.

“We’re going back in to time for an exciting adventure of the writing process,” she replies.

With that, the bus takes off, flying to Edinburgh, Scotland, landing just outside a small café. Everyone exits the bus, staring around in wonder.

“Mrs. Hooks,” one student says, “I still don’t know why we’re here.”

“Take a look inside,” her teacher responds.

The students peer through the window to see a blonde woman sitting at the center table, pencil in hand, balls of paper on top of the table and on the floor.

“Let’s go,” Mrs. Hooks says with a smile. With that, the kids jump back on the bus, and with a few touches of buttons, shrink and fly into the café and into the ear of the woman. After a few moments, they arrive on the right hemisphere of the woman’s brain.

“No, that’s not it. The scar has to be identifiable. It can’t just be a small mark.”

“Mrs. Hooks, was that you?” asked a student.

“No. That was the woman. She thinking of details to add to her character. Remember those balls of crumpled paper? They were drafts of her writing,” Mrs. Hooks explains.

“Do all writers do that?” asked another student.

“Most. After they prewrite, just trying to figure out what they’re going to write about, they usually go through several rough drafts before finalizing their writing.”

“I get it. The woman is drafting her story. Then, she’ll publish it,” a student remarks.

“Well, actually, when she sends it off to a publisher, she’ll probably have to make revisions and edits based on the editor’s remarks,” Mrs. Hooks responds. “You see, class, all writers must go through the five steps of the writing process: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Even the best authors in the world go through these steps.”

“Is this woman a well-known author?” asks a student.

“Not yet, but she will be,” Mrs. Hooks smiles. “Take a listen.”

“Hmmm. What could it be?” the woman ponders as she looks around the café. Nearby, two gentlemen are talking about the weather and a possible storm. One worries that the lightning will frighten his animals.

“That’s it!” the woman exclaims as she begins to write furiously.

“Wait! I know who this is! It’s J.K. Rowling! She’s writing the first Harry Potter book!” a student shouts. All of the students begin to talk enthusiastically.

“That’s right. Rowling didn’t just write the first book and get it published. She went through several drafts and each of the writing process steps several times,” Mrs. Hooks says.

“Wow! So, when we write in class, we should do the same thing to become great writers, right?” a student says.

“Absolutely. Now, let’s head on back and get writing,” Mrs. Hooks exclaims.

With that, the students head back, ready to begin their own adventure of going through the writing process.



$200 - 2nd Place Winner:
Natalie Nevi
Norwin High School
Prize for Second Place Winner, Natalie Nevi.

NexTier Bank presents award to Second Place Winner, Natalie Nevi.

(Left to Right) NexTier Bank's Chief Marketing Officer, Maria Amoruso, 2nd Place Winner - Natalie, and NexTier Bank President & CEO, Clem Rosenberger.


It was Monday, first period. My students weren’t quite awake—to be honest, neither was I. As we started talking about photosynthesis, we heard a clatter outside. I ran to the window, “Class you NEED to see this! Do you remember that NexTier Bank Contest I entered…” There in the parking lot, was Ms. Frizzle next to the Magic School Bus holding a sign proclaiming that we’d won. “Are we going to Disney World?” I heard from their chatter. “Even better,” I said, “go hop on!”

Quickly we traveled back in time a couple hundred years and across the Atlantic Ocean to England. The bus landed on the deck of the HMS Beagle. As we exited, we were greeted by British scientist, Charles Darwin, the Father of Evolution himself! “Today we are going to start a journey around the world and end up at one of my favorite places. Have your cameras and virtual notebooks ready as we see some of the most magnificent organisms!”

And off we went. The boat stopped at stopped at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the Magic School Bus drove us straight to the Amazon Rainforest. Each student was required to take pictures and positively identify as many organisms as possible. “I bet you won’t be able to identify 1000 organisms!” The students took this as a challenge. The canopy covered our heads as watched out for black caiman, piranha, and giant anacondas. Darwin helped us to identify pink Amazon river dolphin, cacao trees, and two toed sloths (everyone’s favorite). After a long few days, the tired students headed back to the bus and used the wireless hotspot we snuck on board to identify some of the more uncommon organisms and send a few cool pictures to their families.

Sailing again, we made a few quick stops at the Falkland Islands and Lima, Peru before we ended up at the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. To pass the time while we were sailing, a few students engineered solar panels for the Magic School Bus so that we could take it onto the Galapagos Islands and not harm the animals with the fuel exhaust. Let’s hope we will have enough power to island hop! At the islands, the students were instructed to focus on showing the evolutionary differences between just one type of organism: finches. Excited to see the animals, I heard from the crowd, “this is just like the finch beak lab we did in class!” They saw finches with thicker beaks that were eating hard seeds and finches with smaller beaks that were eating small seeds. As we headed to the bus that was near the beach, we saw the coolest thing ever, sea turtle hatchlings heading out to sea.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The Magic School Bus took us home, ahead a few hundred years to our classroom and our families, embracing a new a zest for nature, engineering, and an appreciation for the world’s great diversity.



$100 - 3rd Place Winner:
Cynthia Michelini
Summit Township Elementary School
Prize for Third Place Winner, Cynthia Michelini.

NexTier Bank Associates present award to Third Place Winner, Cynthia Michelini.

(Left to Right) NexTier Bank's Chief Marketing Officer, Maria Amoruso, 3rd Place Winner - Cynthia, and NexTier Bank President & CEO, Clem Rosenberger.


If Ms. Fizzle let my class know that we were selected for one of her famous "Magic School Bus" field trips, I would hope my class would choose a trip back in time. Our trip would be called "Time Travel Adventure." We would travel back to when our country was in its original form, back when Native Americans lived here. We would then travel through the decades, through the Revolution to see our founding fathers develop and create America. We would travel through the Industrial Revolution and ride in a Model T Ford. Then we would journey through all of the decades. We would dance through the Roaring 20's and experience food lines after the Great Depression of the 30's. We would take the time to visit harbors where men were sent off to war and factories where women took their place during WW2. We would also be there to see all the joy when the war was over, and the men came home. Our class would dress up and go to the "hop" and dance to the fabulous music the 1950's brought us. I would take them to the very first McDonald’s in Illinois and buy everyone French Fries for 10 cents a piece. Our class would taste test many diners that dotted our country during the 50’s, too. Traveling into the 60’s, we would ride in a Volkswagen Bus to a Beatles concert, wearing bell bottoms and shades...and of course, make our own tie-dye t-shirts. At that point, everyone would take some time to call home with a retro-colored rotary phone to say hello to family. After that, we would cruise into the 70's and watch The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show after singing along at a Bruce Springsteen concert. And of course, we would visit an arcade and play classic games, such as Pac Man! Journeying through the 1980's would be swell, too, as we would be traveling down my own personal memory lane. I would show them all the toys I used to have and spend my childhood playing with during the days of my past. We would explore Rubik’s Cubes, take care of Cabbage Patch dolls, and race Micro Machines. We would then continue our ride through time through the 90’s by going to a boy band concert, wearing Reebok Pumps and slap bracelets, and then watch Looney Tunes. I would also be able to show them all of the original Disney classics and we could compare them to all the remakes our kids are growing up with today. After the 90’s we would visit places in our country the way they were since 2000. We would trek through all of our National Parks, purchasing Beanie Babies along the way while trading our Pokemon Card collection. We would take the time to have Super Soaker water battles when we got too hot on our journey through the Southwest section of the country. We would end our journey back in our classroom, present-day and discuss our journey!



$100 - 3rd Place Winner:
Jennifer Hileman
Grace Christian School
Prize for Third Place Winner, Jennifer Hileman.

NexTier Bank Associates present award to Third Place Winner, Jennifer Hileman.

(Left to Right) NexTier Bank's Chief Marketing Officer, Maria Amoruso, 3rd Place Winner - Jennifer, and NexTier Bank President & CEO, Clem Rosenberger.


I am very excited, class! We have been selected to go on a field trip with Ms. Fizzle! As you know, we have been studying about the immune system. It is very difficult to study about things that are so small that we cannot see them. So, who would like to go? I am so happy that all of you are anxious to go on this adventure of a lifetime.

We have prepared by reading about the immune system and doing some fun activities by seeing how germs spread using glitter. Wow! we never imagined that washing our hands well could help so much in keeping us well.

Then, we made a model of the four components of blood. Models are awesome because they take something we cannot see easily and show us what it is like. We used beads and water to see red and white blood cells, plasma, and platelets.

Lastly, we watched a video that showed the white cells attacking bacteria. That was super cool! We didn't realize how much bigger white blood cells are than red ones.

It helps us learn more on a field trip to have a background on what we will be learning about. We are all ready to get on the magic school bus. The magic school bus arrives and we get in. Get ready Ralphie because here we come!

We are seeing all the blood components in Ralphie’s blood right in front of us! Brooke is so surprised at how creepy those bacteria are! Bradley and Hannah are cheering on those white blood cells so that Ralphie can get better. Leah is drawing diagrams; we can use those to remember how the immune system works.

Ralphie is doing a news broadcast on what we are learning on this adventure. Caleb thinks it will be a great idea to do a broadcast at school on what we learn next about the human body. I think it is a great idea too. The class is excited about doing broadcasts on our health units. Did you know that teaching others is the best way to learn and remember?

Here we are back at school. Great field trips don’t last forever. This field trip is one that we will always remember. Leah shares her diagrams with the class. Lexie reminds us of all we learned on the trip. Caleb asks what our new topic is so that he can look on our classroom computer to find out about it.

The class is excited to journal about all the exciting things that happened on our field trip through Ralphie’s immune system. This was the best day of school ever!