Thursday, November 10, 2011

Clearfield High writers receive national honor

Clearfield High writers receive national honor
“I can hear the music beating in my head. An endless rhythm pounds in my ears and I feel my feet comply. One … two… three … four …”
Those words — and more about a young dance prodigy’s goal to perform 32 fouett├ęs en tournant — brought national recognition to Clearfield High senior Rachelle Atwood, who recently was named an outstanding writer by the National Council of Teachers of English.
She wasn’t the only one.
Out of 520 students honored nationally, two of them came from Clearfield High. Atwood, 17, was one of them. Lena Rasmussen, 18, was the other.
“It’s a very prestigious award from a national organization,” said Atwood, who will graduate next spring from Clearfield High’s International Baccalaureate program. It “will look great on scholarship applications.”
Both students received a certificate from the National Council of Teachers of English, plus a letter for scholarship applications indicating that they are among the nation’s outstanding writers.
The recognition comes, in part, because of Kay Seamons, who oversees Clearfield High’s English department. She nominated the two students after surveying teachers about their strongest writers. Both girls were mentioned.
So with a sample of their best writing, and a 75-minute timed essay, Atwood and Rasmussen were entered into a national competition that included 1,640 nominees. Less than a third of those applicants were recognized as outstanding writers.
Rasmussen said she never expected the nomination. “I didn’t know [Seamons] saw me as an outstanding student,” she said. “I was even more surprised to win.”
So surprised, in fact, that Rasmussen didn’t save a copy of the essay she submitted. It was a nonfiction piece about a geometry class, and about a teacher who didn’t seem interested in helping students succeed.
“It was the lowest level math class you can graduate with,” Rasmussen recalled. “I thought the way the teacher taught was a disservice to the students. He sat me down and said, ‘I can tell you right now which kids are going to fail.’ I think the teacher’s attitude really affects who will pass. A lot of the students could do their math just fine, but they wouldn’t.”
Although still a senior, Rasmussen isn’t attending classes at Clearfield High this year. Instead, she is taking three classes at Weber State University and plans to graduate in the spring from the school’s International Baccalaureate program. She also will receive an associate degree. Rasmussen enjoys writing, but plans to major in psychology.
Atwood, on the other hand, plans to pursue an English degree at Weber State with an emphasis in creative writing.
“I love to read,” she said. “But when I read a book, it’s not exactly what I want. So I started writing. I’m not good at singing or dancing or playing music, so writing is my way of expressing myself.”
In her own way, Atwood did dance.
“I’ve always been interested in ballet,” she said, “but I’ve never been able to dance. So I wrote about how it would be if I was a dancer.”
And it went something like this, as Atwood described a dancer’s successful fouett├ęs en tournant.
“I am perfect. Thirty-two. I whisper the number under my breath as I make my final bow.”
With those words, Atwood, too, took a bow — as a writer.

© 2011 The Salt Lake Tribune
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