Heather Beyer
Ohio.com correspondent


STOW: To engage her students in writing, fifth-grade teacher Melissa Riegseckar, gave them the experience of a lifetime: a chance to Skype with a British author, Jeannette Slavinski, in their own classroom Thursday.



The students will embark on a unique writing project with Slavinski: they will be writing poetry that will be published in her book that deals with the themes of love and war.



The students must submit all their poetry by Feb. 15.



Lakeview Intermediate is the only school in the nation that is participating in this project.



Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools Spokesperson Jacquie Mazziotta and her daughter Ally made the initial connection with the author in a chance encounter while on vacation on Captiva Island, Florida.



Jacquie Mazziotta and Ally Mazziotta were on the beach taking pictures for her school reflections project. The theme of the project was the “Magic of a Moment “and Ally saw Jeannette Slavinski standing with her mother on the beach, Mazziotta said.



“Ally and I talked about the magic of a moment having many meanings and to see a woman with her mother on the beach could be a magical time together for them,” Jacquie Mazziotta said.



Ally Mazziotta approached the author and asked if she could take a photograph of them for her project.



Jacquie Mazziotta said Slavinski was very gracious and humbled to be part of Ally’s school project, which Ally eventually won in the visual arts category.



“We ultimately began talking and learned that she was a British author and about her book,” Jacquie Mazziotta said.



The Mazziottas stayed in contact with Slavinski after returning home.



“She was eager to hear how the project turned out.”



Slavinski shared her thoughts of including a children's chapter in her book and asked if Ally's teacher might be interested in her class participating.



“So, I talked with Mrs. Riegsecker who loved the opportunity that the children could be published while supporting Help for Heroes. It grew from there,” Mazziotta said.



On Thursday morning, Lakeview students had also had the opportunity to talk with Slavinski and hear her poetry via Skype.



Superintendent Dr. Russell Jones also attended the Skype event.



“The Skype session at Lakeview was a perfect example of the incorporation of 21st century skills in the classroom. The ability to have a conversation with the author that students have been studying truly “makes the learning come alive" for our students. I wish to commend instructor Melissa Riegsecker for having the vision to put this valuable learning session together,” Jones said.



Slavinski said, in an e-mail interview, that she was able to establish a connection with the students through her “skyping experience.”



“Skyping brings you closer to your audience as you are freely allowed to see each other on screen. Its an amazing way to connect visually & auditory,” she said.



A few students read some of their favorite poetry to Slavinski.



She said hearing the students reading the poems, “gave her a sense of joy that the words are organic, alive, waiting to be expressed & shared. To hear the students read the poems was quite a revelation.”



Slavinski, author of “The Naked Goddess, added  “inspirations [for her work] comes to me via my senses. I may meet someone who impresses me, I may enjoy the fragrance of a rose, hear a new born baby cry, touch a piece of velvet, taste a snowflake, visualize an Angel. Yoga & meditation brings all my senses alive.”



Slavinski said she hopes through writing, “the students will realize that expressing their emotions will help to relieve their innermost thoughts. It’s a therapeutic exercise. And by sharing their words in a poem, it helps others to appreciate & share their feelings & it also gives confidence to the student.



“ I firmly believe. There is a poem, prayer, lyric, call it what you will, in every human being,” Slavinski said.