Kids’ Inspiring Responses to Teacher’s Presidential Quote Challenge


The future is bright.

I am in awe of all the educators right now doing their best to make remote learning work for their students – especially those who think outside the box to keep their kids engaged.

It is my pleasure to highlight one specific creative challenge thought up by Leeanne Scherpe, outreach worker and former fifth grade teacher at Steele School in Galesburg, Illinois. Inspired by this site, Scherpe created something called the “Plodding through the Presidents challenge.” The rules were simple: Record themselves reading a quote from a president and explaining what it means, and she would send them a prize.

Scherpe told me she first thought up the challenge last year, during the sixth snow day of the year. This year when in-person school was closed for the COVID-19 pandemic, Scherpe said, “I thought this would be the perfect time to complete this challenge again but with any student in Galesburg. I had current and former students reach out and say challenge accepted. Even some teachers across the district wanted in.”

For prizes, Scherpe reached out to local businesses “I contacted Jimmy’s Pizza, Casey’s General Store and Dairy Queen in Galesburg, Illinois who helped me in the past. They said sure – anything to help the kids learn in a fun way and keep them engaged.”

The results of the challenge are amazing. Here are just some of the best entries sent to Mrs. Scherpe, shared with permission.

Jimmy Carter on Principles

If kindergartener Maddie’s explanation of this quote is not the most adorable Jimmy Carter-related thing you’ve ever seen, then please send me whatever I’ve been missing.

James Garfield On Goodness

Third grader Lillian shares a quote from James Garfield about how good people can change the world.

Thomas Jefferson on the Right Attitude

First grader Emma shares a quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson about the power of attitude.

Ronald Reagan on the Power of the Human Spirit

Fifth grader Kenya shares a quote from Ronald Reagan about human potential and overcoming self-doubt.

Lincoln On Experience

Third grader Audrey shares a popular quote attributed to Lincoln that reminds me of how much more I could be doing each day.

Barack Obama on Defeating Our Enemies

Fourth grader Summaiya chose a quote from Obama about bringing America’s enemies to justice.

Two Quotes from Barack Obama on Persevering:

Is it just me, or is there something truly inspiring about kids like Grae talking about not giving up?

Taylor chose a quote that would be inspiring anytime, but the way she relates it to the world today is powerful.

Well said, Taylor.

Thank you to Mrs. Scherpe for posing this creative challenge and inspiring kids to dig into history! I’ll be sending her a pack of posters from Periodic Presidents.

One way you can support your local schools is to write to your representatives about how vital public education is to our children, and how we need to do everything we can to ensure this crisis doesn’t result in mass teacher layoffs.

Feel free to throw in some inspiring presidential quotes.

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