1. Pasco

Trinity Elementary second-graders book captures national prize

TRINITY — A class of 19 Trinity Elementary students who completed second grade in May and their teacher, Renee Blynt, were announced in June as grand prize winners of the 2018-2019 National Book Challenge hosted by Studentreasures Publishing.

The class will receive $5,000 for their school. Each student received a certificate from the publisher acknowledging their book, Trailblazers and World Changers — A Book of Biographies, and a free copy of the book.

A Studentreasures news release said the Trinity book was selected as top of more than 800,000 entries submitted from schools nationwide.

Another Trinity second grade teacher, Rachel Stanley, and her class were among the 134,000 semifinalists.

Blynt's students, with beaming parents, poured into the school's media center on July 11 to celebrate.

"It's so inspiring to see kids work together to accomplish such a task. You show us all, we can do anything," Trinity principal Adam Wolin told those gathered.

"We didn't think about this as a contest," Blynt said. "We spent a lot of time on this project but it was well worth it, prize or no prize, because it instilled the love of writing and the act of taking pride in their work. I hope this carries them through the rest of their school years."

"You can't overstate the credit Mrs. Blynt should get for leading students down this path," said parent Todd Cancelliere who, with wife, Sheri, celebrated with their daughter Violet.

Blynt used a slide show to give parents a view of the project. Each student chose a famous person they called a "trailblazer." There was reading, fact gathering, and then writing.

A striking feature of the book is a handwritten biography of each "trailblazer" penned by the student who selected that historic person. Each student also illustrated their trailblazer's accomplishments.

Liana Loftus chose Eleanor Roosevelt and said the project helped her become a better writer.

"She researched at home on the computer, read a lot and now she says writing is her favorite subject," said Aimee Loftus, mom to Liana.

Carson Hickey chose soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo. Carson's parents, Karen and Jeff Hickey said their son put an enormous amount of time into reading about his character from Blynt's encouragement.

Each student also had an author page, complete with photo.

Blynt has taught in Pasco County for 12 years, the last seven at Trinity Elementary.

"I can't stop smiling. I am incredibly proud of each and every one of my published authors,'' Blynt said. "I have no doubt that they will blaze trails and change the world in a positive way just like the amazing men and women they wrote about."

Gail Diederich is a retired Pasco County teacher of 32 years. She writes feature stories with an education focus for Pasco and Hernando counties. She can be reached at