PIERCETON — Summer break, for a teacher or a principal, has traditionally been known as a time for family, swimming, vacations or maybe even working hard on a home improvement remodel. For Principal Mike McClain, this past summer was a chance to revisit one of his favorite passions, children’s fiction.

McClain recently visited the sixth-grade class of Dana Clutter at Pierceton Elementary to share that passion with some of the students. Clutter, who teaches reading for PES, had recommended a book to McClain that instantly became a family favorite.

His son, Moses, while peaking over his father’s shoulder asked if he could also read it, which quickly lead to the pair of them reading it and it’s sequel this summer. The book, “The Wild Robot” by Peter Brown, was recognized as a New York Times bestseller, and an Amazon Best Book of the Year.

Speaking to the students directly, McClain sat in a rocking chair with the class gathered around him and shared, “In my job as a principal I have to do a lot of reading. A lot of it is non-fiction, a lot of it is about ‘how to,’ leadership books, teaching books, basically becoming a better principal. This summer though, I was like, enough of that. For this summer, I’m gonna get back to my roots. Before I was a principal, for 11 years I taught middle school reading and writing. And fiction is totally my jam.”

Reading from the book, McClain spent the next half hour with the students in the hope of instilling a passion for reading into their lives. He would visit the classroom three times that day to connect with each of his sixth-grade students as they went to their reading course. Each time, he read with such animation and excitement in his voice that it is sure to keep the PES Learning Commons out of stock when it comes to any copies of Peter Brown books for weeks to come.

For PES, this is its first year hosting sixth-grade students as a part of the new Whitko Community Schools consolidation. Previously, PES had hosted K-5 and two preschool programs, but with the addition of a 6th grade class, students will be able to participate in electives such as band and choir. Additionally, the school will offer a sports line-up in cross country, volleyball, football and basketball that will allow students to host and travel to other schools to compete.

When asked about the new addition of a sixth-grade class, Principal McClain excitement was on full display.

“As a former middle school teacher and assistant principal, I know the value of getting preteens involved in their school and fostering a love of learning,” he said. “Fifth through eighth grade is a time when students are starting to experiment with their identity and if they identify themselves as people who love learning, love reading and love being involved in their school with extra-curriculars or student-leadership programs, they are setting themselves up for success as they enter high school & young adulthood.

“As educators and mentors, we need to guide them in that direction whenever we get a chance. A variety of staff members and I have been talking, and we absolutely love having sixth-graders in our school, partly because we, the teachers and staff here at PES, have the opportunity to have that kind of positive impact on these kids’ lives for another year. It has been a great start to the year and it is going to continue to be just awesome.”

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