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home : news : local   May 26, 2016

11/17/2012 10:00:00 AM
Students participate in poetry 'coffeehouse' (with video)

Third-grader Cooper Urbanski reads his favorite poem,
+ click to enlarge
Third-grader Cooper Urbanski reads his favorite poem, "What Happens to the Colors?" by Jack Prelutsky during a coffeehouse poetry event at Northwest Elementary School in La Salle on Friday. Parents and grandparents were invited to attend the coffeehouse day in teacher Gina Koehler's classroom.

NewsTribune photo/Amy Flanery
Amy Flanery
Lifestyle Editor

Parents and grandparents crowded into Gina Koehler’s third-grade classroom at Northwest Elementary School in La Salle Friday afternoon. The desks had been pushed together and covered with white tablecloths, and the room was lit by lamps and battery-powered candles. The dry erase board proclaimed the room was now “Koehler’s Cup Coffeehouse.”

Koehler’s class spent the past four weeks studying poetry, according to special education teacher Kathy Tabor, who also participated in coffeehouse day. The students selected their favorite poems to read at the event. Tabor said reading poetry aloud builds students’ reading fluency.

Each student also read an original poem, perched atop a tall chair next to an electric fireplace loaned to the school by Menards manager Jeff McDonald. In the spirit of the coffeehouse, the poets received “snaps” instead of applause from the audience.

“I think it’s a cute idea,” said Sandi Shea of La Salle. “It gets the parents and grandparents involved with the classroom.”

Shea’s grandson, Zachary Riggenbach, said he likes poetry, even though it isn’t his favorite. He found it “nerve-wracking” to read his poems, but he enjoyed the coffeehouse. He said his favorite part was the snack bar; the teachers had set up pastries and served coffee to the adults and hot chocolate to the children.

Third-grader Blake Sarantinos said he was nervous about reading aloud, too, but he was glad he did it and glad so many parents came to hear them.

“I’m glad I didn’t puke,” he added.

Student McKenzi Donaway said coffeehouse poetry day was “awesome.” Her original poem was inspired by her 3-year-old brother, Jack.

“My poem was about my brother because he’s all messy and he spills cups all the time,” she said.

Riggenbach explained why he and several of his classmates were dressed entirely in black.

“We’re trying to make this like the 1970s, back in the olden days or something like that,” he said.


Amy Flanery can be reached at (815) 220-6975 or

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