State trooper revisits Highland Park school to read to students
Authors: Bob Makin
For the third year in a row, State Trooper Ed Collenton visited the borough's Irving Primary School on Friday to read to students in celebration of Read Across America Day and to answer questions about law enforcement.
The National Education Association's Read Across America is an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on the birthday of children's book author Dr. Seuss.
Collenton, the nephew of an Irving School teacher's aide, said he enjoys being a good role model to the pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade pupils.
"Any chance we can to interact with the community, especially with children — to be a positive role model — we'll take advantage of that if your schedule permits," said Collenton, a trooper in the Homeland Security division in Trenton who hails from Monmouth County.
"I'm a proponent of education and reading," he said. "It does a wealth of things for you if you have people you can look up to. Hopefully, they have a good support system at home, and their parents are reading to them and spending time with them on their schoolwork."
Gina Collenton is a 12-year veteran of the school who works with kindergarten classes. She said she was proud of the relationship her nephew has developed with the school.
Read Across America was launched by the National Education Association in 1998. Irving School has participated for about 10 years, said Barbara Holzhauser, a kindergarten and first-grade reading teacher who helps promote the event.
Throughout Collenton's visit, students posed questions.
"Some bad guys are good guys," one child said.
"This is true, not everyone is bad guys," the trooper said.
"And sometimes they like to shake hands," the child continued.
"Why do you have a whistle?" another asked.
"Sometimes you might have to direct traffic outside," Collenton explained. "Did you ever see the traffic light stop working? I might have to go into the street and tell the cars when to go and when not to go."
Read Across America Day was March 2, the 106th birthday of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. However, the Highland Park school district had a half-day then for parent-teacher conferences, so the celebration was rescheduled, Gina Collenton said.
The activities kicked off with a visit from Seuss' most famous character, the Cat in the Hat, as played by Eileen Pinchensen, a retired Highland Park teacher who donned a costume provided by the New Jersey Education Association.