By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Eagle readers of a certain age might remember when penmanship classes were standard in schools. Those were the days when students had to practice their handwriting by writing the same sentences over and over again on lined paper using No. 2 pencils. Kids literally had to cross their T’s and dot their I’s.
Times have changed. In a 2013 article, the Washington Post reported that these days, with the use of laptops and tablets becoming increasingly common in classrooms, handwritten notes are in danger of becoming obsolete in public schools.
But one Brooklyn boy might be able to make cursive writing trendy again.
Daniel Shi, a third grader at the SEEALL Academy in Borough Park won a national award for his mastery of cursive writing, also known as writing in script. Daniel’s flowing words on the page with his loops and swirls, impressed the judges.
Daniel, who is a special needs student with motor and visual perceptual weaknesses, beat out kids from all over the country in the 23rd Annual National Handwriting Contest sponsored by Zaner-Bloser. The talented student won the Nicholas Maxim Award, a prize given to special needs students who display a mastery of handwriting skills. To be eligible for the award, a student must have a cognitive delay, or an intellectual, physical, or developmental disability.
Zaner-Bloser, a wholly owned subsidiary of Highlights for Children, is an educational curricula and digital resources provider for schools across the country.
Daniel was presented with his trophy at a school assembly at SEEALL Academy at 5601 16th Ave. on May 27. He also received a $1,000 check from the contest’s sponsor.
Daniel has made the whole school proud, according to Maria Baigini, a special education teacher. Baigini also said that learning the skill of cursive writing has helped Daniel tremendously. “Completing his assignments in print was a challenge for Daniel, but learning how to write in cursive changed his life. Now, he loves completing his assignments using cursive, which allows him to write faster,” she said.
“I always tell my students they can do whatever they want to do. This skill has helped him to make great strides and achieve his goals,” Baigini added.
Daniel was one of two students to win the Nicholas Maxim Award. Prizes are given out for cursive and manuscript (print) writing. The manuscript winner was Maryam Al-Saidi, a fifth grade student who recently transferred from Cromwell Valley Elementary in Towson, Maryland to Cunningham Elementary in Houston, Texas. Maryam has a variant form of Charcot-Marie-Tooth (a peripheral neuropathy disease causing muscle atrophy in the hands and legs).
“Maryam is a new student to Cunningham Elementary, but we have learned that she is one determined young lady. She teaches us that we should strive to do our best no matter what the circumstance—and we’re so excited that she’s being recognized for her determination,” said Anna White, principal at Cunningham Elementary.
"These students are truly an inspiration and they deserve to be recognized for their exemplary handwriting and perseverance," Bob Page, president of Zaner-Bloser, said. "Each year, we’re amazed at the dedication and commitment demonstrated by the special needs students who compete for the Nicholas Maxim Award.”
Daniel’s school, as well as Maryam’s previous and current schools, will receive a framed certificate and a Zaner-Bloser coupon to spend as they wish.
Zaner-Bloser’s 23rd annual National Handwriting Contest attracted more than 300,000 students this year and approximately 3.6 million since its inception, according to the sponsor.