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Marion Teacher Assigns Students To 'Pay It Forward'

December 12, 2013, 6:08 PM by Hailey Higgins

Marion Teacher Assigns Students To 'Pay It Forward'
MARION, SD -

A Marion teacher is giving her students homework that goes beyond math, science and reading. Instead, it develops their character this holiday season.

It's an assignment that Karri Wieman first saw on social media in 2012: give each student an envelope with a $5 bill, ask them to give it away to someone or something in need, and then write about their experience.

The real-life lesson is one that's having a big impact on her students.

"I thought it was for us, but it really wasn't," 9-year-old Alivea Weber said.

This third-grade class is paying it forward after Wieman, gave them a special assignment. Just one day later, most have big plans for their holiday donation.

"I live right next to the nursing home, so I can walk over there," Weber said. "I want to give somebody some love, so I guess I could do that to somebody who needs it."

While some donations are going to complete strangers, the assignment is very personal for 9-year-old Madison Pankratz. She's giving the $5 to the Ronald McDonald House in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

"They're special to me. I've been through a lot," Pankratz said. "They're the people I like a lot and they help me a lot."

Pankratz underwent her third heart surgery last year to repair five heart defects. Her family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House while undergoing treatment.

"I really just want to thank them for taking care of us while we're in there," Pankratz said.

Changing the focus off of what these children are getting this year, and instead helping those in need is exactly the point of Wieman's assignment.

"We get so wrapped up in teaching the standards and the common core and worrying if our kids are going to pass the test in April, that sometimes we need stop and take time to really focus on what's important," Wieman said.

"I think Mrs. Wieman has given our students a gift for life on how to focus on other people," Anne Pankratz said, Madison's mother and Marion teacher.

It's a lesson these kids will remember for years to come.

"It feels like I can make a difference in my life, even though I have heart surgery, you can do a lot," Madison Pankratz said.

Wieman says the money given to the students came from an anonymous donor.

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