City students meet the challenge, teachers keep their promise
MANCHESTER — Webster Elementary School students' eyes weren't too strained after exceeding a challenge to read 1,000 hours collectively over a two-week span.
The kids could see just fine as they gleefully watched and cheered as two of their teachers fulfilled their end of the bargain by getting their long hair cut off in the middle of the gymnasium during a schoolwide assembly on Wednesday.
"I don't like getting my hair cut normally and I've never had shorter hair. It's always just been very long. It took me a little bit to get over that initial first cut, but it will grow back," music teacher Stephanie Chalbeck said after having 11 inches removed. "The kids were all excited. They wanted me to shave it and I said 'that's going a little bit too far, but I can cut it.'"
Chalbeck was talked into it by Webster librarian Rebecca Domin, who has donated her hair six times now to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that provides hairpieces to children who have lost their hair because of a medical condition or treatment.
"If you go to the website, it's really nice to see the before and afters, and it's remarkable how many ponytails they actually need to make one hairpiece for a child," Domin said.
Domin incorporated the idea into a reading challenge at the elementary school on Elm Street four years ago and it was a hit. With the school year winding down, she decided to encourage the students to get a little more reading in before summer by offering to have her red hair curls cut to a bob just above her shoulders.
"It was fun. We have announcements in the morning about how many hours we were up to and as of yesterday afternoon we needed 56 more hours. That really got the kids pumped," said Domin, who smiled and laughed through the assembly as 13 inches of hair was removed. "As you can see, we got well over 1,000."
The grand total was 1,137 hours. Students logged their time in 15-minute chunks, filling in eight blanks marked on a picture of a pair of scissors. It took two hours of reading to fill in the eight blanks, then the students would anxiously turn the colored scissors in for a new log.
Principal Christine Martin called up "Super Readers" from each grade level, awarding them a certificate of achievement as Domin and Chalbeck prepared for the cut.
Chill Spa owner Crissy Kantor and stylist Coco Lever braided the teachers hair into ponytails before the ceremonial cuts began with a count of "1-2-3-GO!!!" from the students seated on the gym floor.
The kids clapped and cheered when Kantor and Lever held up the first cuts for all to see.
Kantor said Chill does work with Locks for Love and similar organizations and is always happy to help the cause of providing children hair after they've lost it during chemotherapy or other treatments.
"We do a spa credit so that they can come back and enjoy a little chill time for doing something nice," said Kantor, who attended Webster as a child.
Martin interviewed both teachers mid-cut and Chalbeck described the experience as a little nerve-wracking, but afterward felt it was worthwhile endeavor in the name of two causes.
"We've had a few students in the past who have had leukaemia or different illnesses. It's a great thing to try," Chalbeck said. "It grows back. What does my hair do for me? Not much, but it can help somebody else."