Students at Cedaroak Park sell treats to honor a former teacher

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Second-grader Jillian Colarchik purchased bags of dog biscuits as gifts for her relatives and their pets. On the last day of school before winter break began, the desks of some teachers at Cedaroak Park Primary School sported quite a collection of colorful gift bags and homemade treats. One teacher, however, was not at her desk — and the gift that students organized in Jean Benny’s honor couldn’t be contained in a gift bag, anyway.

Although Benny’s leave of absence turned into a decision to retire permanently in December, her influence lingers at Cedaroak. The fourth-graders whom Benny taught last year, in third grade, had nothing but praise for their former teacher.

“She’s very nice and very understanding,” Audrey Krusee said.

“She always had a smile on her face and was really happy. You would know her from anywhere because she always had that smile,” Maddie Spicer TIDINGS PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Grace Anderson and Aaron McCoy prepare to head out on their first delivery run Dec. 19.

To honor Benny, the girls and their classmates in Dylan Robertson’s fourth-grade classroom at Cedaroak organized a fundraiser to benefit the American Cancer Society.

“We did (fundraising for) cancer research in her class last year,” Maddie said. “We raised $184.”

This year, Robertson’s students organized a fundraiser that brought in more than double that amount. The students baked dog biscuits in Cedaroak’s student kitchen, sold them to fellow students and their teachers and raised $388 at last count. The biscuits were packaged in bags of two, priced at $1, or five for $ TIDINGS PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - From left, Kyle Jensen, Thomas Pierce and Ty Lorenz count money and tally sales Dec. 19. The fourth-graders will donate all the money to the American Cancer Society.

“I thought sales would be small, but they’re huge,” fourth-grader Grace Anderson said. While many students and teachers ordered a bag or two, the largest order was for a whopping 72 biscuits.

Second-grader Jillian Colarchick placed a large order and accepted delivery of a handful of cellophane bags when fourth-graders Grace Anderson and Aaron McCoy made their deliveries to Michelle Flagg’s blended classroom of first- and second-graders. The dog biscuits, Jillian said, were presents for her cousins, aunts, uncles and grandma and their pets.

Fourth-grader Katherine Gunter had a good idea why the fundraiser was so successful.

“I’m pretty sure all my dog wants for Christmas is treats,” she said.

The lucky dogs who received treats under the tree should direct particular thanks to two students. Although Robertson’s entire class worked on the fundraiser, the idea originated with Ben Scott and Mason Van Beenen. Both the boys were in Benny’s class last year, and they agreed she was the kind of teacher who deserved special recognition.

However, they couldn’t seem to agree if the right way to describe her was “the best teacher” or “the nicest teacher.” Either way, they had no hesitation in going to work to honor her.

“I found out Ms. Benny was diagnosed with cancer,” Ben said. “I was at Mason’s house, and I told him.”

“I told my mom,” Mason added. “She said, ‘You and Ben should come up with an idea.’ We both know a lot of people with dogs.”

“We told them we were doing it for cancer,” Ben said. “When we went to classrooms we said, ‘We’re doing it in honor of Ms. Benny.’”

This isn’t the first time the boys have mobilized to raise money to help others. In addition to their fundraising efforts in Benny’s third-grade classroom, Ben and his family previously organized a successful garage sale to help a neighbor manage her medical bills. by: TIDINGS PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Rayna Reynolds and Max Paul sort orders of homemade dog biscuits.

Although the fight against cancer is bigger than their classroom — bigger, even, than the entire Cedaroak community — the fourth-graders learned that they can make a difference. Mason summed up the lessons the students had learned as they baked, sold and delivered the treats.

“Little or tall, you can do anything,” he said.

That’s a statement that a veteran teacher like Benny most likely would agree with.

Kate Hoots can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 112 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow her on Twitter: @CommuniKater.

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