It wasn't good enough by her own standards, but the state insurance commissioner sure liked it. Morgan Bentley, a seventh grader at Thomson Elementary School, recently won second place in the 2008 Statewide Fire Safety Essay Contest.
Open to students in grades six through 12, the contest required the students to write an essay about preventing home fires. When Morgan heard that she was a winner, she was surprised.
"I don't think anything I do is good. I'm just like that," she said. "I always think I can do better with everything."
Her teacher, however, said as soon as she read Morgan's essay, she knew it was a winner.
"I don't think that (Morgan) thought her essay was of the caliber that it actually was," said Jennifer Coleman, a language arts teacher at TMS. "But I knew that it was a very good essay. She had excellent organization, and she was appealing to people out there, talking about what started home fires, how people react and what they should do. Things that students wouldn't normally be thinking about. She spoke to all age groups in her essay."
Ms. Coleman said the contest entry was an assignment for the class. The teacher worked with the class as a whole, letting them brainstorm and call out different things about fire safety while she wrote it all on a graphic organizer on the board. The students then got to go home and interview family members or do more research about fire safety, and write a five paragraph essay about what they'd learned.
"I was trying to make mine original because everybody had the same graphic organizer and was pulling from the same stuff," Morgan said.
Morgan did additional research on the internet, where she said she learned many things she already knew - like stop, drop and roll - but was surprised to learn some new things.
"Like napkins left on a stove can catch on fire even if the stove isn't turned on," she said. "I never knew that."
The seventh grader decided what was new to her was probably new to everyone, so those are the things she wrote about. And it worked. Principal Claude Powell recognized Morgan and her parents, Scott and Debbie Shivers, at the Board of Education October planning session last week. And they will travel to Atlanta to be honored at an awards banquet this evening (Oct. 23).
Morgan said she is excited to go to Atlanta because she hopes all the winning essays will be read out loud during the banquet.
"It'll be a good experience. Maybe I can hear the others and see how I can improve mine next time," she said.
The winners will get to meet State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and tour the state capital. Morgan said she's also excited about the tour because she's only seen the capital from the road on her travels to the Georgia Dome. Morgan's teacher may think she's a good writer, but Morgan said she "lives for softball." She's been playing since she "was four or five," and is currently a pitcher for the TMS team and for the Lady Bucs traveling team.
And she plans to combine both her talents when she grows up.
"I hope I can become a middle or a high school teacher," she said. "That way I can coach softball, too."