Costumes and school pride raise money

Published 10:19 pm Friday, March 23, 2018

Christyna Mencarini had to make an impression to win, so the fourth-grade teacher put on her best wolf mask with accompanying paw gloves.

She spun and danced on stage in front of about 200 cheering students in the Hillpoint Elementary School cafeteria on Friday. Mencarini was happy to pay homage to the school’s husky mascot, but her routine was much more difficult than it looked.

“It was hot inside that mask, and I couldn’t breathe or see,” she said with a laugh. “But that actually made it better, because I felt like I could just do whatever.”

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The masked instructor was one of 10 contestants that dressed up for the school’s inaugural “Spirit of Hillpoint Staff Pageant.” Thirty staff members signed up for the competition to raise money for the March of Dimes, an organization determined to reduce premature births, infant mortality and birth defects.

“Last year we had the pageant for the girls and we were joking around about having one for the staff,” said special education teacher Mary Beth Gribble. “It just evolved from there.”

Students donated money as votes for their favorite contestants over the course of two weeks, then paid the $2 admission fee to attend the finale on Friday. The school ended up raising more than $1,200 for the March of Dimes.

The 10 finalists each had two minutes to perform their routines and answer the question, “What’s the best thing about Hillpoint?”

“My favorite thing about Hillpoint are my dogs,” Mencarini said, to which her students responded with a chorus of “woofs.”

The judges were former Hillpoint greats themselves: Dr. Ronald Leigh, the elementary school’s first principal and current principal at King’s Fork High School, and former Hillpoint teachers Ginny Lane and Jan Baker.

Students sat in front of the stage hollering for their favorite teachers as the judges decided on the winner. Students like Mencarini’s pups made rally signs for the occasion.

Aiden Granthier, 9, wrote “Go Ms. Mencarini, we believe in ya” on his sign.

“She’s actually a really generous teacher,” Aiden Granthier said about Mencarini. “She talks to us every day and comes back every day, and she’s nice to everyone.”

Kindergarten students on the other side of room held signs for teacher assistant Corey Lewis that read “Mr. Lewis rocks” and “we vote for Mr. Lewis.”

“My almost-first graders are awesome,” Lewis said.

Secretary Shonda Bell embraced the school’s green-and-gold colors with her matching tutu, and second-grade teacher Elizabeth Riley held her husky toy close to her green shirt that matched her hair and lipstick.

Fifth-grade teacher Jacindia Woodall wore her green cowboy hat and joined her students for a group dance routine. La-Retha Brown from the school’s Early Start department threw candy to the crowd.

“They really brought it,” Gribble said. “We had no clue what any of them had planned, but they were amazing.”

The students gave a drumroll as teacher assistant Albert Davis did his drumline routine and occasionally fumbled his sticks.

“My stick just slipped out of my hand from the sweat, but it was a lot of fun,” Davis said.

Academic coach LuAnne LaPoint also had a mishap when her toy dog decided to skitter off the stage, only to be narrowly caught at the last second.

“She got a little overwhelmed with a bit of stage fright,” LaPoint laughed.

Leigh thought LaPoint and her little robot dog were the craziest of the afternoon.

“It was very original, but I expected that from her,” he said. “It was good to come back.”

It was fourth-grade teacher Brandy Roberts — with her green cape that had “super fly teacher” written in gold — who won the pageant, including the people’s choice award for receiving the most votes overall.

Roberts started the afternoon’s festivities by walking through the audience with her student entourage and a catchy tune.

“I explained to them that I made the top 10 and that I needed their help,” she said. “We’re like a family.”

She managed to fit her new tiara under her green hat and behind her green, oversized sunglasses.

“I feel amazing. I love my school and I love my students,” she said.