CITY SCHOOLS Society, contest help celebrate educator's legacy
Two East Middle School pupils won the first McGuffey essay contest.
By AMBER HYLAND
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Most residents of Youngstown have no problem finding McGuffey Road, but ask them who William Holmes McGuffey is and they might not have an answer.
William Holmes McGuffey is the legend behind The McGuffey Readers, textbooks that were used by American schoolchildren through most of the 19th century.
The first "Eclectic Readers" were published in 1836, and the books sold more than 122 million copies, making them the most-read books by Americans next to the Bible and Webster's dictionary.
Keeping the legend alive are the William Holmes McGuffey Historical Society and its first annual McGuffey Essay Contest, which was offered in all four Youngstown middle schools this year.
Pupils were expected to generate and type their own papers conducting analysis and research on McGuffey and his legacy.
"The reason [for the contest] is to keep the legacy of William Holmes McGuffey alive," said Richard Scarsella, president of the William Holmes McGuffey Historical Society and a teacher at East Middle School.
Both winners were eighth-graders from East Middle School. Taking first prize was Tiaishia Sims, who was awarded a $100 savings bond. Second prize was awarded to Christin Stilson, who received a $50 savings bond.
"How appropriate that two girls from the East Side who never knew about McGuffey now know," Scarsella said.
The site of the current McGuffey Road was created by McGuffey's father, Alexander, who wanted his son to have a path for his walk to a parson's school on Wick Avenue.
Contest to continue
Joyce Brooks, judge for the contest and board member of Mahoning County Educational Service Center, said she was "extremely impressed" with the pupils' writing and research.
"They really got a handle, not only that McGuffey was a great writer, but they really got a handle on the man himself," Brooks said, adding that the contest was a also a great way to highlight pupils and teachers of Youngstown City Schools.
All essays had to be proofread and signed by a teacher and the pupil.
Lisa Perry was the East Middle School eighth-grade teacher of both the winners.
Scarsella said the contest will continue and include more schools in the future.
He added that the contest will prepare pupils for writing and research in later grades as well as for writing proficiency tests.
A strict schoolteacher like McGuffey would be proud.
The William Holmes McGuffey Historical Society was founded in 1961 and is the last chapter of the National Federation of McGuffey Societies. Scarsella said the society has members who are descendants of McGuffey.
The association has a storyteller who visits local schools and reads portions of the McGuffey Readers, and also has a speaker who gives talks about the McGuffey legacy.
For more information about the association or to schedule a speaker, call (330) 726-8277 or mail an inquiry to P.O. Box 9561, Youngstown, Ohio, 44513.