In a black and white composition notebook, decorated with foam letters, Trinh Tran practices her cursive handwriting one line at a time.
And shes become quite good at it Trinhs perfect script earned her the title of Grand Champion in the seventh-grade division of the Zaner-Bloser 21st Annual National Handwriting Contest.
This year, more than 325,000 students, grades kindergarten through eighth, participated in the Zaner-Bloser nationwide contest.
Zaner-Bloser is an Ohio-based company that publishes research-based reading, writing, spelling, handwriting and vocabulary programs. To enter the contest, public and private schools held handwriting contests and entered the winning student for each grade level. Students then went on to compete on the state and national levels.
On Friday morning, Trinh, a seventh-grader at Southwest Middle, was surprised in the schools media center by a group of about 50 of her peers, her mother Nguyet Nguyen and sister, Phuong Tran, who came to celebrate and tell her the news.
Im shocked, Trinh said when she heard shed won. Very surprised.
Trinh, who moved from Vietnam to Charlotte about 15 months ago, is still learning to speak English, she said, but she practiced her handwriting before moving to the U.S. She and her family spoke to a reporter through a translator.
Her uncle sponsored her familys move to their first location in Pennsylvania. When Nguyen discovered Pennsylvanias cooler winters, she moved her husband and two daughters south to Charlotte.
In Charlotte, Trinh began middle school, and Phuong Tran enrolled at Central Piedmont Community College. Phuong said she enjoys helping her younger sister with her studies.
The key to perfect handwriting, Trinh said, You have to practice. To prepare for the contest, Trinh worked with Anjie Carpenter, ESL teacher at Southwest Middle.
We decided to enter (Trinh) because she has such beautiful handwriting, Carpenter said. She already had such a natural, beautiful hand.
The contest entries, both cursive and manuscript, were judged according to the Zaner-Bloser Keys to Legibility: size, shape, spacing and slant. Students in grades first through second are judged on manuscript writing, while students in grades third through eighth are judged on cursive writing.
At Fridays gathering, Southwest Principal Barry Blair and Chief Academic Officer Ann Clark presented Trinh with two trophies, framed achievement certificates and a $1,250 college scholarship provided by Zaner-Bloser.
Because of her accomplishments, Zaner-Bloser also awarded Carpenter with a trip to the International Reading Association annual convention in Chicago, which took place last month, and granted Southwest Middle $1,000.
I hope this is a stepping stone and I hope she continues to stay motivated in school and continues to succeed, Clark said.
Trinhs award comes at a time when cursive is playing a smaller role in the nations classrooms.
Forty-five states have adopted the new Common Core Standards for English, including North and South Carolina. The new standards dont require cursive, although states are free to include the requirement. But the standards require instruction in keyboarding.
Starting in the 2012-13 school year, North Carolina teachers will no longer be required to teach cursive.
Blair said the winning funds will be used to create an afterschool handwriting club for students next year. The practice of teaching cursive is being dropped because students learning is now geared toward technology and working on a keyboard, he said.
Blair hopes to incorporate cursive, old English and gothic-style handwriting techniques into the new handwriting club.
Thankful to Trinh, Blair said, Not only did (Trinh) do something for herself, she did it for her school.