Ridgefield School District has a reputation for creating unique learning opportunities for students. Ellen Ferrin, a first grade teacher at Union Ridge provided her students the opportunity to partner with residents of the Mirabella Retirement Community in Portland, Oregon throughout last school year. Students in Ferrin’s were matched up with Mirabella residents as pen-pals. Over the course of the year, the students and seniors exchanged correspondence, developing a relationship.

This is not the first time Ferrin has reached out to senior citizens to establish connections for students. In fact, the veteran teacher, who spent many years teaching in the Issaquah School District, has reached out to senior citizens and students from other schools across the country many times to develop pen pals.

 “I believe that authentic writing and reading are important for students' development as scholars and community members. And the kids really enjoy reading the letters they receive in return,” said Ferrin.

Late in the school year, Ferrin arranged to have Mirabella residents travel to Ridgefield to visit her students at school. Ferrin timed the visit to coincide with the release of autobiographies written by the students. Over the course of three months, the students compiled a 13 page book, entirely written and illustrated by the first graders.

The visit started with the students reading their autobiographies to their Mirabella pals, many of whom were former educators. The pals were thoroughly impressed with the students' writing, drawing and reading skills, and during a tour of the school that followed, they were equally impressed with all that Union Ridge Elementary had to offer to the Ridgefield community.

Back in the classroom, pals and students exchanged gifts. Over the course of letter-writing, Mirabella pals really got to know their first-graders and surprised each of them with a copy of their favorite book.

Later, Ferrin received numerous emails from the Mirabella pals--each one with a sincere thank-you and comments about how wonderful the pen pal experience had been.

Marge Carothers, a Mirabella resident, shared the sentiments that summed up how all the Mirabella pals felt toward their buddies. "I can't begin to tell you what an absolutely delightful time we had with Mrs. Ferrin's students. Ellen is an amazing teacher and the students were so thoughtful and darling--I am so in love with dear little Addie. Talk about thoughtful!!! Addie took my hand so I didn't have to use my cane.”