Local students use books’ message to pay it forward

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published April 13, 2016

 Fifth-grader Veronica Paniccia helps first-grader Anna Berisic with reading April 6. The older students are helping younger students with their studies as a way to put into action lessons they learned in “The Good Eggs in the Community,” by S. Ciara Mitaro.

Fifth-grader Veronica Paniccia helps first-grader Anna Berisic with reading April 6. The older students are helping younger students with their studies as a way to put into action lessons they learned in “The Good Eggs in the Community,” by S. Ciara Mitaro.

Photo provided by Miranda Zagacki

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Hoping that their good works will inspire others, a classroom full of “good eggs” say they were first inspired by books from a local author.

S. Ciara Mitaro, of Sterling Heights, first published “The Good Eggs” in 2013 to teach lessons in virtues to children in the elementary grades. 

“I feel the important lessons of being a virtuous person (generosity, honesty, love, etc.), the importance of respecting diversity in all people, and the importance of giving back to one’s community are all very important lessons I hope to get across to young people,” said Mitaro in an email interview. “If they develop these lessons at a young age, the hope is that it will become part of who they are as an adult.”

Mitaro, a religious studies teacher at Mercy High School in Farmington Hills, ended up writing three Good Eggs books, following up with “The Good Eggs Travel the World,” which focuses on diversity, and “The Good Eggs in the Community,” which teaches service, in 2014. The books follow the Good Eggs — who are “egg children” named Reggie, Megg, Seggourney, Greggory, Peggy and Benedict — through three years of their lives as they grow and learn life lessons.

Since Mitaro graduated from St. Germaine in 1975, she approached the school with the idea that current students might benefit from the books’ lessons.

The school implemented the books in its third-, fourth- and fifth-grade curriculums — with each grade learning the lessons of one of the books. In reading the books, students in Miranda Zagacki’s fifth-grade class took it a step further and put the lessons into action.

“We’re trying to become ambassadors for our community by doing random acts of kindness,” said 10-year-old Ethan Johnstone. 

The class is reading “The Good Eggs in the Community,” so they’ve been inspired to put their ideas into action by helping students in kindergarten, first, second and third grades with their studies, as well as making Easter baskets with crossword puzzles, sudoku books, gardening supplies and more for members of the St. Germaine/Our Lady of Hope senior group that exercises each week in the school’s gym.

Zagacki said the students brainstormed all of the ideas on their own and had to present them to Principal Julie DeGrez for approval before moving forward. Some of the students, Zagacki said, worked on their own to raise money to buy the supplies.

“Some returned cans to get the money to do this,” she said. “We wanted this to be something that they took ownership of.” 

The community has appreciated the students’ efforts, Zagacki said. Basket recipients sent messages back to the students thanking them for the gifts, and one even said the basket brightened up an otherwise sad day when she had learned that a friend was diagnosed with cancer.

The class has been taking a few months to get through each chapter in the book, reading it and then brainstorming ways they can put it into action and following through. The next chapter the students will tackle is being ambassadors for animals.

Students said they like the way that the book has given them ideas of how they can help in the community.

“They have different scenarios that involve them doing good in the community, and it helps inspire you,” said Claire Johnstone, 10. 

Ten-year-old Andrew Newton said he hopes their actions will inspire others as well.

“When people do good, it inspires other people to do good and it will just keep going,” he said. “There’s a lot of not very good stuff happening all over the world, so it’s good to have some good stuff happening.”

Zagacki said she hopes the lessons help the students grow into good people.

“I feel like, along with the academics, that it’s my duty as a teacher to help show these children how to be good people, how to be good citizens and treat people kindly,” she said. “We do all sorts of things like that throughout the year to form a family-like atmosphere throughout the classroom.”

Mitaro said inspiring children was her goal in writing the books.

“I am thrilled that the fifth-grade students of St. Germaine are putting the lessons in book three into practice. That is my goal,” she said. 

Across metro Detroit, other schools have “The Good Eggs” in their curriculum as well. St. Lawrence Catholic School in Utica adopted the program along with St. Germaine this year. Mitaro donates a book to a child in need each time someone purchases a copy, and so students in two Detroit schools — The Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences and Gesu Elementary — are also reading the books through her donation. 

To find out more, visit www.thegoodeggs.org or facebook.com/readthegoodeggs.