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Poland second grade students make new friends with Herkimer pen pals

Poland teacher Heather Judd (left) and Herkimer teacher Dawn McCumber pose with their students on Dec. 20, 2022.

A tradition nearly 20 years in the making, Poland Central School District second grade students welcomed their Herkimer Central School District pen pals for a visit on Dec. 20.


Poland teacher Heather Judd and Herkimer teacher Dawn McCumber have led students in a pen pal program since 2003. Both teachers help students work on their letter writing format, punctuation and knowing when to capitalize letters.


Handwriting letters has become less popular over the years. 


“It’s nice to bring this back to communicating,” Judd said.


Students from both classes write to each other about once a month during the school year, and they write about a range of topics. 


“We have a template at the beginning, but then we brainstorm,” McCumber said.


Poland student Hadley Rommel said she is now friends with Herkimer student Emma Blum after both shared hand drawn pictures in addition to their letters. Hadley wrote in a letter to Emma that she couldn’t wait to meet her.


Easton Postempa, of Poland, and Owen Summer, of Herkimer, shared with each other what they like to do outside of school and what each other did for Halloween.


“I love seeing the kids getting excited, getting letters in the mail and going to meet their pen pals,” Judd said.


On Dec. 20, the pen pals met each other for the first time and celebrated with a reading of “The Polar Express.” They then watched the movie that was inspired by the book. It was the first time the students could meet in person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The project shows learning can also be fun.


McCumber said she likes to see the students find out about other kids and make new friends.


Judd said students tend to stay in touch over the years so the connections last far beyond just one project.


Poland students will visit Herkimer in the spring.