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Democracy in action

picture of student voting

Grade 5 students elect class leaders from among a dozen candidates

Fifth graders at Watervliet Elementary School experienced a real-life lesson in the democratic process recently when they elected a class president from among 12 of their peers.

Grade 5 students learn about the U.S. government as part of the social studies curriculum. Teachers recognized an opportunity with the presidential election taking place the same month (November) to help students make real-world connections with the voting process and how it works by having a class election.

Twelve students ran for class president. Each candidate was responsible for writing a speech and presenting it to the entire fifth-grade class during a special breakfast.

“The students all did a great job writing their persuasive speeches explaining why he or she would be the best for the role,” said grade 5 teacher Joelle Bird. “The student who received the most votes overall was elected president, the second most was named vice president. Then the next highest vote getters from each classroom were selected to be class representatives.”

picture of grade 5 candidates

Teacher Paul Travers said the students were eager to choose the best candidate, not necessarily their best friend or the most popular student.

“This was not a popularity contest. The students really listened and paid attention to what each of the candidates had to say in their speeches and what they had to offer,” he said. “The candidates put a lot of time and effort into those speeches to persuade students to choose the individual with the best ideas and who they believed best reflected what they as a grade level see as a leader.”

In addition to the speeches, the candidates also created campaign posters that saturated the walls of the grade 5 wing.

“Our hallway was full of posters,” said teacher Caleb Gleason. “Some of them were really creative. You could see the students’ personalities and get a sense of who they are from their campaign posters.”

The lesson culminated with the grade 5 election on Monday, Nov. 7 when students had an opportunity to cast their ballots using an actual lever voting machine, courtesy of the City of Watervliet.

“The students especially liked using the voting machine,” said Jennifer Swyer. “They all came out of the booth saying how awesome the experience was. It was fun to watch.”

picture of student casting ballot

More than a title

The teachers emphasized that being elected as a grade 5 officer is more than a title, each office involves specific roles and expectations.

The president is responsible for giving a “state of the class” address during grade level breakfasts to inform students of activities happening in each classroom and other relevant grade 5 news. The president also presides over monthly Kids of Character elections and will announce the guest readers and guest speakers at various events, such as Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) Day.

The vice president will provide support for the monthly Kids of Character elections, discuss the Word of the Month during grade level breakfasts and will fill in for the president as necessary.

Representatives will help resolve classroom disputes and will make Character Education posters each month to display in the hallway.

The class leaders will meet regularly as a group to share new ideas.

Election results

After tallying the votes, the results were announced. The grade 5 students elected to office include President Salman Khan, Vice President Cecilia Durivage, and class representatives Kevin Brammer, Manahil Teehsen, Alana Attanasio, and Haope Caufield.

Congratulations to all the candidates on a job well done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about the grade 5 team

Want to know what career grade 5 educators dreamed of pursuing when they were in fifth grade? To learn the answer to that and a few other questions, click on the staff member’s name to reveal a short Q&A.

picture of grade 5 teachers

The fifth grade team, from left: Kate Diacco, Caleb Gleason, Joelle Bird, Jennifer Swyer and Paul Travers.

Joelle Bird

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Peanut

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching fifth grade? I like working with students this age.

bullet graphicFavorite book read in the upper elementary grades (4-5-6)? Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea? Coffee.

bullet graphicFavorite color? Pink.

bullet graphicWhen you were in fifth grade, what did you dream of being when you grew up? A teacher.

 

Kate Diacco (special education teacher)

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Peanut.

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching fifth grade? My favorite thing about teaching fifth grade is that I was lucky enough to teach these awesome students last year in fourth grade and now again this year!

bullet graphicFavorite book read in the upper elementary grades (4-5-6)? The Witches by Roald Dahl.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea? Coffee.

bullet graphicFavorite color? Turquoise.

bullet graphicWhen you were in fifth grade, what did you dream of being when you grew up? A marine biologist.

 

Caleb Gleason

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Peanut butter.

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching fifth grade? Watching the students grow from start of year to end of year.

bullet graphicFavorite book read in the upper elementary grades (4-5-6)? The Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea?  I don't drink either, so can I say hot chocolate?

bullet graphicFavorite color? Blue.

bullet graphicWhen you were in fifth grade, what did you dream of being when you grew up? A professional hockey player.

 

Jennifer Swyer

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Peanut.

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching fifth grade? The students!

bullet graphicFavorite book read in the upper elementary grades (4-5-6)? Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, it's a fun, imaginative book.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea? Tea.

bullet graphicFavorite color? Black.

bullet graphicWhen you were in fifth grade, what did you dream of being when you grew up? A teacher.

 

Paul Travers

bullet graphicPlain or peanut M&M’s? Peanut.

bullet graphicWhat is your favorite thing about teaching fifth grade? There is so much I like about teaching fifth grade. Working with my colleagues, of course. The maturity level of the students from the beginning to the end of the year, you get to see the growth in maturity, it’s really clear.

bullet graphicFavorite book read in the upper elementary grades (4-5-6)? A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith.

bullet graphicCoffee or tea? I like hot chocolate, too.

bullet graphicFavorite color? Black.

bullet graphicWhen you were in fifth grade, what did you dream of being when you grew up? A lawyer because I was pretty good at arguing with my mom and sisters.