Inaugural Haiku Writing Contest comes to North Penn


Ali Brooks

North Penn’s first annual Haiku Writing Contest will not only ignite creativity, but it will also bring a sense of togetherness in a socially distant world.

TOWAMENCIN – There always comes a time in the year when school tends to become cold and dreary. And yes, I know you know what I’m talking about. Students work overtime to get their homework assignments done and start to feel unsettled over taking their next standardized test. But while it’s hard to find the fun in stressing over the next due date, teachers like Mrs. Ellen McKee are creating projects in hopes of replicating the sense of togetherness that North Penn High School is no stranger to during a normal school year. 

Starting this month, McKee is launching the first annual NPHS Haiku Writing Contest. In this school-wide poetry contest, students and staff are welcomed to write an original Haiku about any topic of their choosing. Poems entered between January 15th and February 11th will then be judged by a panel of teachers from the English department. From there, the selected poems will be featured on the morning announcements, published in the Knight Crier, and be voted on by students and staff on February 25th. 

Unsure about what a Haiku is? It’s a traditional Japanese poem that consists of seventeen syllables in three lines of five, seven, and five. They are meant to capture life and nature in a simple but impactful way. 

“I was trying to think about how we could do something that might take off and kind of just be something fun that everybody has a chance to participate with,” McKee said. “It’s just something a little artsy that enriches everybody and it gives a person a little moment in the sun.

McKee is no stranger to creating projects and opportunities in which her students are given a chance to shine. In the past, she initiated events such as The Vocab Bowl, Lit Fest, and Gatsby Live. Students were able to prepare, compete, and express their creativity during these much anticipated events, ultimately connecting students and staff alike.

“It would give kids a little ray of sunshine in the darkest part of winter and maybe inspire some potential poets,” McKee said. “It gives kids a chance to express themselves and connect with each other.”

It would give kids a little ray of sunshine in the darkest part of winter and maybe inspire some potential poets. It gives kids a chance to express themselves and connect with each other.”

— Mrs. Ellen McKee - NPHS English Teacher

Sponsored by The North Penn School District Educational Foundation, the Haiku Writing Contest is funded with special prizes for the winners, including a dozen free dinners from Chick Fil A. The Foundation has funded countless teacher projects and innovations in the past with the intention of creating enhanced educational experiences and resources for students. 

“All the Vocab Bowls, all the Lit Fests, Gatsby Live, and now this were all made possible because I got a grant from The North Penn Educational Foundation. They do such great work and they have funded activities for me and other teachers alike,” McKee said. “They host fundraisers and do all kinds of things to raise money basically to help make more educational opportunities for North Penn students. It’s a wonderful foundation.” 

McKee is thankful for having such open-minded administrators and teachers around her such as Mr. Pete Nicholson, Mr. Robert Gillmer, Mr. Kevin Manero, and Mrs. Elizabeth Weizer. They not only help to stimulate her ideas, but they also help to make them become a reality. 

“I did not grow up in North Penn. My high school experience was very different from this, and once I got a taste of North Penn when I first joined in 1992, this is how I wish I had done high school. I love North Penn kids; I find the vast majority of them to be hardworking, adorable, positive, and up for participation. I’m happy to do whatever I can to celebrate the kids. Every year they fail to disappoint,” McKee said. 

The most important benefit that comes out of projects like the Haiku Writing Contest is the opportunity that students receive, even in this restrictive virtual environment, to show off their individual skill and creativity. 

“It’s hard to build a sense of family in the classroom where they feel comfortable and they want to learn and they’re okay with taking academic risks and chances. Instead of just filling in the homework, to actually think about it and give it a try. That takes trust. And you build trust through this kind of activity,” McKee said. 

Interested in submitting a haiku? Fill out the entry forms below: