What Teachers Say

About how The Classroom Connection impacted their students…

“The program positively impacted many of my students. I had a few “non -writers” this program got them excited to share and write! WOOONNNNDDDERRRFULLL!!”   -Natalie Baratta-Verdi

“This program was wonderful! It was especially nice seeing how excited the students were to both write to their pen pals and also receive letters back from them. All students learned many interesting facts about their new friends, school, and community. The students drew pictures, sent small handmade gifts and photographs of themselves to help connect with their pen pals. Great interactive program!!!”  -Jennifer Pennisi

“My students developed an awareness related to life outside their little worlds. That is my favorite part of the experience! They truly realize that they can connect with people from all walks of life. I think this goes a long way in helping prepare them to open their minds to new friendships and experiences they will have the opportunity to have as they move into a multi-district sending high school 5 years from now.”  -Deborah Greco

“The children anxiously awaited their letters. Letter writing is becoming a lost art and this activity may motivate them to do other letter writing.”  -Jane Williams

“Students loved getting letters and seeing what they had in common.”  -Linda Myers

“I had a student who transferred in from another district in the fall. He struggled with things he had not been taught in his old school. Instead of working harder, he was resentful and spent a lot of time trying to avoid tasks. Even though this boy had not been required to write in his last placement, he really wanted to participate in the pen pal experience. He wrote a great letter and was very proud of himself. This (in my view) helped turn his attitude around and he began working hard.” -Mrs. McMahon

“My students were very interested in learning about other students who lived near the beach. We are a Title One school with a diverse population. The students don’t know much beyond their own neighborhood, so it was a good experience in that sense. All had never had a pen pal before.”  -Theresa Waters

“The students were so excited to receive mail at school and were also excited to make personal connections.” -Linda Bischer

“It made many of the students realize that they had much in common with the other children.  However, it also highlighted some differences, which had to be explained about how children’s families and lives are different.”  -Maria Howard

“The students were very excited about writing and receiving their letters. They were eager to write back to their pen pals. This experience got the students excited about writing.”  -Jill Butch

“All of my students were engaged with the process and asking to write. I work in a Title one district this was a huge impact.”   -AnnMarie Kalajian

“Several of my students were surprised to discover how many interests they shared with their pen pals, whether it be soccer, love of dogs, video games, or plans to go to the Jersey Shore. For these students, it seemed that their second and third letters got longer and more detailed.”   -Mrs. Currie

“The students loved getting the letters, obviously, and loved learning about other children their age: where they live, family members, their interests, what their school is like, their hobbies, sports they play, singers they like, etc.”
-Maureen Zweigle

“My students had such a great experience with this program. EVERY day they asked me if the letter had arrived yet. They enjoyed learning about new people and were amazed at the differences there were in the same state.”  -Ellen Scherr

“Our school is not very diverse so it was nice to be partnered with students with different backgrounds.” -Margret Thompson

“The students all loved hearing about what their pen pals were doing and how they spent their time. They enjoyed learning they had common interests.”  -Beverly Donofrio

 “The students made great connections with their pen pals and wanted further contact. They were excited about the cross-curricular implications of the project and were excited to participate in every step.”  -Heidi Wagner

“Students really liked putting their ideas down on paper. Enjoyed reading other 3rd graders messages.”  -Patricia Arabio

“My students enjoyed learning about another third grade experience, and comparing and contrasting this with their own.”  -Ruth Ellen St. Clair

“Two students who refused to write other assignments couldn’t wait to compose their pen pal letters.”  -Linda Lind

 “This was a first time experience for most of my students. They enjoyed receiving and responding to the letters. Some chose to continue letter writing with their pen pals.”  -Kathryn Mayer

“The students were very excited when their letters would arrive. They were anxious to reply immediately.”  -Barbara Hayes

 “It was amazing how the kids were so perfectly matched. They really felt like they had become friends.”  -Bess Mitsakos

“Some were enthusiastic to continue through the summer, and I obtained parent permission for the student to send an email address to his/her pen pal.”  -Denise Coleman

 “The students really felt a connection with their pen pals. They were very excited to get the letters and to write letters back.”
-Andrea Herbeck

“ALL (of) the students thoroughly enjoyed writing to their pen pals. Therefore, they didn’t think of it as work! I brought them through the writing process; they included simile, metaphor, alliteration, good openings, endings, etc., etc. They loved every minute of it and looked forward to receiving their responses. Writing for a “real” purpose is definitely better!”  -Ann Marie Costantino

“Students enjoyed receiving their letters- some have connected and are still communicating.”  -Susan Blackwell

“My students were truly excited to get snail mail! They immediately started writing responses. They were actively engaged in writing, without prodding.”  -Karen Barbagelata

“Students became aware that all schools are not equal. My class was split between 2 different schools and one school had a pool and swimming was a class!”  -Liz Szamreta

“Some of my students want to meet personally their new-found friends. They even asked me if they can schedule a date to meet their pen pal. Most of them asked me if they can share pictures and friendship bracelets. They are always looking forward to receiving their letters.”  -Sr. Rose Regalado

“The students liked corresponding with their pen pals. It allowed them to write freely about topics that interested them. Also, it allowed them to learn about other children in the area.”  -Dawn Larsen

“The students really enjoyed receiving their letters!”  -Melissa Sharar

“It was so nice for the students to realize that Hazlet is NOT the only town in NJ. They were able to hear about the differences from Hazlet to Hackettstown.”  -Elizabeth Bergslien

“One of my students struggles with his affective domain. These writing & reading exercises were among the very few when he demonstrated any enthusiasm.”  -Kathleen Palumbo

“They were all very enthusiastic – they loved writing the letters, had a fine time with the topics, and always looked forward to receiving responses. They all felt like they had made a new friend.”  -Jennifer Rice

“Some students will continue to communicate with their pen pals.”  -Barbara Bucci

“The program had a positive impact on most of my students. They realized that there are children in different places that are very much like them, with similar interests and concerns.”  -Maryalice Perazzo

“Many students want to continue connection with pen pals, and students enjoyed the writing process and product more than any other writing they accomplished during the year.”  -Natalie Michael


About how The Classroom Connection impacted their teaching experience…

“It was a true pleasure to chat with a teacher in another district and share thoughts, ideas, and ever trials and tribulations! It truly was a pleasure…would love to continue the connection with Kathy next year!”  -Natalie Baratta-Verdi

“All students were so engaged throughout the whole writing process. Even reluctant writers were excited to pick up that pencil and share their thoughts with their pen pals. It was wonderful seeing how excited each and every student was about participation in this program and it was priceless seeing the smiles on their faces when they received return mail from their pen pals. Thank you!!”
-Jennifer Pennisi

 “I am a firm believer in communicating through letter writing. My goal was to instill how important it is to keep in touch with friends and family through writing.”  -Jane Williams

“I was able to Skype with my 5th grade pen pal partner. I enjoyed it as well as the students. Unfortunately we only did it once.”  -Linda Myers

“My students were highly engaged in this activity. In fact they did not realize that this was a teaching activity. They were very excited to meet students from other parts of the state. They were very excited about the whole writing process. Editing was not seen as a chore rather as a way to improve their letter. We used computers to type the letters and their skill in that area also improved.”  -Trish Chandler

“I am 63; it can be easy to repeat activities that you know the children will enjoy. Still, it is important for me to try new things to stay fresh, and this project did that.”  -Mrs. McMahon

“I gained ideas for systems I could use in my classroom from my teacher partner.”  -Kami Woodson

“It was exciting for me to reach out to another fourth grade teacher….we both attended The College of NJ but this was her first year and this was my 28th!”
-Linda Bischer

“Since our school is departmentalized for all grade levels, it encouraged collaboration with colleagues. The letter writing process and format was introduced in language arts class. The first letter was written in that class. The following two letters were written in the Social Studies class where responses were also read and discussed.”  -Yvette Rego

“The children met students that were different from them, instead of just listening to me. It also held the children captive when they were reading the letters. They were also eager to write back.”  -Maria Howard

“I enjoyed seeing the all of the children engaged and excited about learning.” 
-AnnMarie Kalajian

“I thought it was important for the children to see (on a map) where their pen pals were from. That led to a discussion about living near the Delaware River, which they did, as opposed to living on a mountain, which we do. I encouraged the children to decorate or personalize their letters, in hopes that their partners would do the same. The children looked forward to receiving each new round of letters.”  -Mrs. Currie

“By participating in this program, I had the opportunity to show my students that writing can be fun and rewarding. The students looked forward to writing about the topics explored in the program. They even asked and reminded me of the topics and requested time to work on their writing. This, I believe is incredible! Usually my students hate to write.”  -Maria Sohn

“I enjoyed seeing my students react to the cultural diversity of our pen pals.”
-Debra Dragon

“The program integrated into our language arts curriculum very well.”  -Bess Mitsakos

“Students were beyond excited when they received letters. It was a nice addition to our writing program and fit with our dust of the regions of NJ.”
-Margret Thompson

“This project always opens up some terrific conversations in our classroom. It allows us to focus on building a relationship with someone sight unseen, no judgments or preconceived notions. I love the simple nature of it. I also really like the opportunity to practice our friendly letter format and enjoy the anticipation we feel as we wait for our response letters!!”  -Deborah Greco

“This program helped to incorporate letter writing in my curriculum in a painless way!”  -Beverly Donofrio

“It was fun for me as well. I love seeing my students excited and actively engaged, and it was easy to make the cross-curricular connections with this program.”  -Heidi Wagner

“I felt it motivated students to share their ideas and focus on specific topics.”
-Patricia Arabio

“I enjoyed relating my own pen pal experience and how I learned from it, and showing my students that connecting with someone whom they don’t know can be positive and interesting experience, since they probably have a lot in common.”  -Ruth Ellen St. Clair

“This program took a lesson on letter writing to a real life experience. It increased writing and communication skills. The students were able to share their lives and feelings and to make a new friend through writing. I enjoyed being part of this process.”  -Kathryn Mayer

“It was a pleasure to read the letters and talk with my students about how children are very similar, the same interests, hobbies and aspirations – no matter where they live. I loved seeing how excited my kids got when a new round of letters would arrive.”  -Bess Mitsakos

“The program made my teaching easier, since the students were so motivated and excited about writing, they didn’t mind doing all that work!!! They absolutely loved the “task”!”  -Ann Marie Costantino

“This made my teaching points in writing real. I’d been saying we write to be understood; they get that now.”  -Karen Barbagelata

“Definitely made learning to write letters properly a little easier.”  -Judy Henecker

“I have seen my students’ effort to really write their letter neatly. When I asked them to write a letter for other purposes it became easy for them to follow the correct formatting.”  -Sr. Rose Regalado

“I feel that the students saw a real-life reason to write neatly, spell correctly, and add details to their writing.”  -Melissa Sharar

“Any time the children are excited, it positively impacts the teaching experience.”  -Kathleen Palumbo

“It helped our writing immensely – it was nice to write something other than another essay!! I will definitely do it again in the fall. If the numbers match, I would even work again with the teachers I cooperated with this spring.”
-Jennifer Rice

“Participating gave my students a real life application for letter writing and therefore made my teaching more authentic.”  -Maryalice Perazzo

“Having pen pals brought our class together more, and we were able to embrace diversity in a positive manner; personally, I derived pleasure from watching the excitement and enthusiasm of student writing, and in the sharing of this experience.”  -Natalie Michael