At Garth Elementary, Rachel Lukacsko is teaching her fifth graders the fundamentals of being American citizens.
At the beginning of the year, Lukacsko posed a challenge to her 19 students: memorize and recite the states in alphabetical order; the U.S. presidents in chronological order; “The Star-Spangled” banner, the Preamble, and a summation of the first ten amendments. If they did it, said Lukascko, they would receive lunch from Chick-fil-a and a shirt that read, “I met the Lukacsko challenge.”
Of those 19 students, 18 completed the challenge and received their green t-shirts. The idea, said Lukacsko, came from an episode of the 1990s’ sitcom “Saved by the Bell.”
“The idea hit me when I saw on TV a rerun of ‘Saved by the Bell’ when Ms. Bliss held up a t- shirt that said, ‘I met the Ms. Bliss challenge.’ So that, and then I talked to a previous teacher, my daughter’s fifth grade teacher … and she had her kids do some of the same things … so I took that and modified it a bit,” said Lukacsko.
All of the subject matter was learned through songs, four of which existed prior to Lukacsko’s challenge. However, she created the song to help her students memorize the amendments, she said.
Lukacsko said that knowing this information is a vital part of being an American citizen.
“I think as an American citizen these are like the basic things you should know,” she said. “You should understand the history of America, you should understand what makes America and the rights we have and the power we have as citizens, things like that.”
Soon, Lukacsko realized that more students were completing the challenge than she previous thought. She reached out to Chick-fil-a, looking to see if the restaurant would sponsor the student rewards, Lukacsko said.
“Once I realized there were a lot more kids that were going to achieve this than — I thought at the beginning, maybe seven or eight might go for it,” she said. “But, once I saw, oh, this is a lot of kids, this is going to get a bit expensive, I reached out to Chick-fil-a and said, ‘Hey, how would you like to sponsor this,’ and they said, ‘We love this, we love the idea of the kids doing this, we would love to sponsor it.’
Fifth grader Cole Risch is one of Lukacsko’s students. As the year came closer to an end, he was motivated to complete the challenge.
“Well at first, I didn’t much of the stuff done, but then there was only like a couple more weeks and I knew I needed to practice, so I practiced a lot, and I got it done just about a week or two ago,” said Risch.
Risch feels like knowing these things is “pretty important” for later in life, he said.
His classmate, Anthony Alfaro, also completed the challenge. At first, he wasn’t looking forward to the challenge because he didn’t believe he could do it, Alfaro said.
“But Mrs. Lukascko pushed me to do it and I ended up doing it and know I’m proud of myself,” he said. “I want to give her a thanks because she really did help me a lot.”
Lukasco is proud of her students and their accomplishments in completing the challenge, she said.
“I’m just really proud of these kids. They worked hard for this and they really earned it. I didn’t let them get by if they missed a word or got something out of order, they had to go back, do it again, and make sure they learned it the right way. I’m really, really proud of them,” Lukacsko said.