Hanna, of La Salle, is the state handwriting champ

Trinity student a finalist in national penmanship contest

One of her peers — she’s too classy to say who — had the nerve to say her handwriting wasn’t that good and she had no chance in a national penmanship contest.

Hanna Waszkowiak proved them wrong. Very wrong.

Hanna, daughter of Paul and Jenny Waszkowiak of La Salle and a fifth-grader at Trinity Catholic Academy, was named a state winner in the Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest.

Her submission now is in the hands of judges who’ll decide the national winners. An announcement is expected in early May. Even if Hanna isn’t named a national champion she’s already stood out from a field of 80,000 competitors.

“I’m very excited,” Hanna said. “I was shocked at first because I didn’t think my handwriting was that good.”

Actually, Hanna has been working on her penmanship for the past three years. Students at Trinity learn cursive writing in the second grade. Hanna concluded hers needed a little work so she seldom misses an opportunity to brush up her script.

Trinity Principal Deb Myers said she and her teachers are as excited as Hanna because penmanship is a point of emphasis at the school.

“I think all of us have become too dependent on computer programs to assist our basic grammar skills,” Myers said.

Hanna’s teacher, Mike Bacidore, said he’s been in education 38 years and he’s noticed “a rather sharp decline in student cursive writing ability.” He and his colleagues teach computer skills, but they also ensure their students hone traditional skills with pen and paper.

“We spend about an hour a week on cursive instruction,” Bacidore said. “I believe the end result is well worth the time invested. Requiring students to do all their writing in cursive is what leads to the greatest improvement. Parents and teachers need to once again demand legible writing from their children.”

Bacidore noted Trinity parents have been “very supportive” about their children learning cursive. Also, research has shown cursive writing stimulates the brain, improves fine motor skills and leads to better retention of information.

It’s proving to be contagious, too. Hanna has spurred interest in penmanship at Trinity, where there are quarterly cursive contests — “The competition gets quite fierce,” Bacidore said — and ribbons given for best penmanship.

“I really hope that cursive penmanship returns to schools,” he said. “Even though there is greater use of computers in school, this doesn’t justify neglecting to teach children to write legibly any more than we would neglect arithmetic because calculators exist.”

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.