Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Shaler Fourth Grader Wins National Garden Club?s Poetry Contest

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Shaler Fourth Grader Wins National Garden Club?s Poetry Contest

Article excerpt

Once the seeds of caring for the earth and creativity were sewn by local garden club members and the school librarian, a third grader at Burchfield Primary in the Shaler Area School District cultivated an idea last year that grew into national recognition for her poem about environmental stewardship.

Isabelle Dutkovic, now a fourth grader at Scott Elementary School in Shaler, was surprised to learn the poem she wrote last year for a contest supported through the Ingomar Garden Club, and which had already placed first at the local and state levels, had blossomed into a first-place winner in the National Garden Club's annual poetry contest.

"She didn't know she was getting the national award," said Isabelle's mother, Marlene Dutkovic. But when a group of people, including Ms. Dutkovic, Chris Hawthorne from the Ingomar Garden Club and now-retired Burchfield librarian Katrine Watkins entered her classroom at the end of September bearing flowers and a certificate, Isabelle rose to the correct assumption.

"At first, I wondered, 'Is it good news or bad news,'" Isabelle said. Upon hearing the happy announcement, she decided: "This is the best day of my life."

Now 10 years old, Isabelle said she thought winning first locally and then again in the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania's contest, "was just a fluke."

But now that she's won at the national level, Isabelle said she is planning to continue writing poems for friends and family, including her father, Jeff, and sister, Olivia. "I hope one day in my life my jobs will be writing poems and playing girls' basketball."

Her mother said when Isabelle won the local contest she felt honored. When her daughter's poem went on to earn at the state level, she said she was amazed.

When she placed first in the nation: "I was speechless. I was just stunned and shocked. And so proud. Caring about the environment is something you try and instill in your kids. So when they show they've listened, that's something to be even more proud about."

Good Stewards of the Earth was the theme of last year's garden club poetry contest. "We had never had a first place winner from our garden club, much-less from district nine," said Ms. …

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