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Covenant teacher merges poetry with March Madness

Apr. 05, 2013 @ 01:00 PM

HUNTINGTON -- A large NCAA bracket is taped to the wall outside Patrick Stanley's classroom at Covenant School.

The language arts teacher has it hung not so he, students and his colleagues can follow the tournament. It's up because he combined the popularity of March Madness with poetry.

And he's not talking about the "poetic" story lines of Florida Gulf Coast University or Wichita State. He means poetry written by students that he ranked and matched up with one of the 68 college basketball teams that were seeded in the tournament.

"I've always been a fan of the NCAA tournament and filling out brackets," Stanley said. "There's positive energy, even from people who aren't interested (in college basketball)."

He said he merged the two genres last year after noticing his middle and high school students' poetry work often included sports-related themes, many times focusing basketball -- the only formal sport offered at the private Christian school that is located at Christ Temple Church in Huntington.

To make it work and to be fair, Stanley isn't aware of the authors, only the grade level. Then he ranks them based on content and quality and consistency with poetic standards.

This year, he seeded them on the bracket a week before Selection Sunday. He said that created a buzz during the week as students passed by his classroom to see where they landed and then talk about what teams might get that spot.

Senior Sam Smith submitted three poems, which Stanley ranked as top seeds. But he's now a spectator as all three of his teams -- Ohio State, Indiana and Miami -- have lost.

"I didn't expect my teams to lose," Smith said, noting that there was an excitement among students to watch games during spring break.

The final four includes a second-grader, fifth-grader, seventh-grader and eighth-grader. And Stanley said they all are excited to see if they can win the whole thing.

He and Smith also said it's not bad that the younger kids are left standing because it could serve as inspiration to continue competing in Stanley's bracket challenge in coming years and to improve their writing.

"It's motivating them to keep learning and writing," Smith said. "I think it boosts their confidence with how far their team goes."