Q&A TIME … “Congressman Latta, what is one of your favorite places to visit?” was Elle Moreland’s question when her Stryker 4th grade class hosted Congressman Bob Latta on February 22, 2022. Latta said that was a hard question to answer but said that he really enjoys visiting places in Northwest Ohio like Ft. Meigs, Sauder Village and Spangler Candy. (PHOTO BY REBECCA MILLER, STAFF)
By: Rebecca Miller
Stryker Schools’ fourth grade teachers, Blake Burkholder and Angie Behnfeldt, welcomed Congressman Bob Latta and his staff member Nicole Giesige to the 4th grade Social Studies classroom on 2/22/22.
That Tuesday morning was not the first time that fourth graders at Stryker School have enjoyed some time with a political leader.
Mr. Burkholder has been on a mission for a few years to not only help the students understand the importance of getting involved in government, but to help the community see that Stryker Schools offer a great education.
Burkholder spoke of how much he learned along with the students when they had Senator Rob McColley visit their class in February of 2020. “As he did that Mock Legislative Exercise with the students, I thought, Why didn’t I think to teach it that way!?”
That experience, plus the excellent field trip to the old Stryker Train Depot in May of 2021, helped him realize that this age group is perfect to soak up this level of information and incorporate the importance for their future.
The news coverage of both those events was well received and stirred his desire even deeper to get the word out about Stryker Schools.
This event, of having Congressman Latta come to talk with the students, began about five or six weeks ago when Mr. Burkholder contacted his office to invite him.
Latta’s schedulers called and shared that as he would be in the Stryker area in February, they would be happy to set up a visit.
That Tuesday morning, running about 20 minutes late, as politicians tend to do, Latta strode down the hallway with a sense of joy and purpose. Stryker is his wife’s hometown and they were married there, so he has stayed well connected through the years.
As he entered the classroom, he shook hands with the adults who were present and greeted the children with a big smile.
He began by sharing an illustration of a child who saw trash in the parking lot at his school and started to clean it up. While doing so, other students were pointing out trash and telling him how to do it, “but what should they have been doing?” he asked.
“Helping!” came the quick answer. “That’s right,” he responded, “so that’s what it’s all about. We want to be sure that we all work together to get stuff done.”
The Congressman took some time to explain how legislation works, using a hypothetical situation that kids could relate to, as well as a few other points of information.
He also shared that he reads every letter he receives from constituents, and signs them to show that he read it.
“It is really important that I am in touch with the people whom I represent,” he said. “I see every letter. In Washington I look at every piece of legislation that my staff are working on as well.”
He gave the students an opportunity to share what laws they think should be different. These students showed a leaning toward environmentalism as a few said that zoos and Sea World should be illegal, and stuff should not be thrown in the ocean.
One said that taxes should be lower! He then spoke about how those thoughts would go through a procedure and could become a bill that could be voted into a law.
Latta asked if they had any questions. Their teachers had them well prepared, as each student had a file card with a question on it. They had practiced how to address him respectfully, so each one who wanted to participate, stood and said, “Congressman Latta,…”.
The questions ranged from his favorites, such as books and movies, to who are some famous people he has met and what is some legislation he has gotten passed.
The students were attentive as he answered each one and seemed genuinely interested to hear his answers.
His answers included that he loves Christmas; as a boy he wanted to be a Cowboy when he grew up; he has met the Presidents of France, Ukraine and Canada; he works 12-15 hours a day; he wanted to be a Congressman because he saw how much his dad (Del Latta) helped people; he loves to read books about history; and he has met nine presidents!
After he left, hearing shouts of “Thank you” in his ears, Mr. Burkholder asked what they might tell their families that night when asked what happened at school that day, the unanimous answer was, “I got to meet Congressman Latta today!”
Rebecca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org