Famous portrayals garner accolades By DIANE GASPER-O’BRIEN
dobrien@dailynews.net

It’s exciting for a school when it has more than one of its contestants bring home a trophy from the annual Ellis County Famous Figures competition for fifth-graders.

Think how special Brenda Stoecklein must feel.

Stoecklein, a fifth-grade teacher at Holy Family Elementary School in Hays, had three students from her class of 23 place in the top five in Friday’s event at the 12th Street Auditorium.

Each elementary school in the county is allowed to enter the equivalent of two students per each fifth-grade classroom. Holy Family has two rooms of fifth-graders but combines them all for its school competition.

This year, three of the top four from HFE to qualify for the county finals happened to be from the same classroom.

Finishing second overall was Holy Family’s Jacob Wick, who portrayed American singer-songwriter Jerry Lee Lewis. Classmate Cameron Rozean — alias scientist Sir Isaac Newton who discovered gravity — was right behind him in third. And Kade Urban, who portrayed Apple computer co-founder Steve Jobs, finished in a tie for fifth.

Stoecklein, in her eighth year at Holy Family, has had a county champion before but never three from her classroom in the same year.

“They were pretty excited,” said Stoecklein, who has her students write formal papers in February after they have done research on their famous figure. The students then perform before Stoecklein and HFE’s other fifth-grade teacher, Karen Rohr, who give the students tips before they perform before the entire student body.

Four then are chosen for the county finals.

For some, the process starts long before that, however.

“Oh, some of them have picked out as fourth graders already who they want to be,” Stoecklein said.

Coincidentally, the overall winner in the 2012 competition sponsored by the Hays Arts Council also had someone from her classroom finish in the top five.

Kallie Leiker from O’Loughlin Elementary School put on an impressive rendition of Judy Blume, a best-selling author of children’s books, to give O’Loughlin its first county champion since 2006 and seventh overall in 16 years, the most for any school.

Leiker, whose teachers are the tag-team duo of Sonya Herl and Kristi Richmeier, was joined in the top five by classmate Cade Swayne, who played Philo Farnsworth, who invented television as a young boy. Swayne was one of three who tied for fifth.

Brett Bowles from Roosevelt, portraying music composer Antonin Dvorak, finished third, while Tiffany Dortland from Victoria (nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale) was one of the fifth-place ties along with O’Loughlin’s Swayne and Holy Family’s Urban.

While trophies are awarded to students with the top five point totals, plus ties, every competitor receives a medal.

“They are all winners,” said Brenda Meder, executive director of the Hays Arts Council. “They made it to the county finals by advancing out of their school. They deserve a medal.

“We want to keep encouraging this kind of creativity.”