Local 4th grade class earns once in a lifetime trip to Wrigley Field

Published: Mar. 15, 2017 at 6:44 PM EDT
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A local 4th grade class is taking the trip of a lifetime, earning a trip to Wrigley Field for a personal tour and catching a game. However, it took some hard work for them to get there.

The kids put in some hard work preparing for ISTEP. It's something everyone is familiar with in Indiana. It's a lot of pressure for the kids and it can be like facing a full count with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

In that vein, a teacher at Walt Disney Elementary School decided to make learning fun with a baseball theme. So the kids got behind it and kept their hands back while knocking it out of the park.

It was an ordinary Wednesday in Jodi Cramer's 4th grade class. However, every student was sporting a Cubs t-shirt with "Team Cramer" across the back. The class has taken on the moniker while preparing for ISTEP.

"We're a great team and we try harder and never give up," Alayah Turner said.

The baseball theme is something Cramer is very passionate about. She's a baseball fanatic and says she and her late husband wanted to hit every baseball par in America. So since his passing, Cramer says she uses the sport as a comfort tool and was able to use her passion as a motivator for the students.

"I just want them to always remember to never give up on a dream," Cramer said. "Even when things seem impossible, they're possible if you put in the hard work and not let anybody else squelch that dream. Our quote is, if you believe it, you can achieve it."

Achieve they did. The kids treated each week as an inning against their opponent; ISTEP. Each week, they would set individual goals and when they reached them, they would "knock it out of the park" and score a run for their team.

"One little boy hit his goal and he jumped up and said, I hit it out of the park," Cramer said. "I scored a run for the team. Everyone stopped what they were doing and started cheering. Ran over and moved the baseball to the outfield and changed the score."

Not only did it make learning fun, but a team called the Cubs were pretty motivating themselves as they made a run at their first World Series in 108 years.

"When they were going on, further and further, I was like guys, look at this team," Cramer said. "They're underdogs. People didn't believe they could really do this. They wanted them to, but they didn't necessarily believe it but they had to believe in themselves. As a class, we had to remember that and learn from them, that we can overcome obstacles and not let anyone defeat us as long as we believe in ourselves."

"We're a great team and we try harder and never give up," Turner said.

"I have been learning a lot more lately," Alexah Ward said. "Team Cramer is all about learning."

Cramer hammered home that adage, "if you believe it, you can achieve it" to her students to keep them motivated. But she needed that motivation herself. She wanted to get the kids to Wrigley but started to lose hope.

"I was totally defeated at that moment and tried to make myself feel better and [a friend], said go for it," Cramer said. "He called and said, I told my uncle who knows Mr. Ricketts. He loves the idea of your class and your vision so there' s chance you might go to Wrigley. I was like, no way."

After Cubs owner Tom Ricketts caught wind of the class's motivation, he helped make it happen. So an ordinary Wednesday at a small Mishawaka Elementary School turned extraordinary.

"We're going to see the Chicago Cubs," Cramer announced to her students as they screamed with joy.

"I was like," Turner said as she made a shocked face. "I was so excited."

"I was just screaming," Ward said.

"On a scale of one to 10," Akul Bhambhani said of his excitement. "A 10. It's going to be fun to see the bases and how they do stuff. It's going to be a learning experience."

A job well done by Cramer, to inspire her students to find learning experiences in all aspects of life.

"Hearing their expressions about learning and getting into it, drives me to want to be better and do better for them and do more things to think outside the box and bring learning to their level," Cramer said. "Just make them want to learn more."

But for at least one day, they'll be able to take in an experience of a lifetime. April 13th, they'll go to Chicago to watch the reigning World Series champions take on the Dodgers at the end of their first home series of the season, including a personal tour of the historic park.

"Never in my life," Mason Westbrook said of whether he's been to a baseball game. "I guess now, I'm going to a baseball game."

A heck of a first game indeed.