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A penny for your ... hair?

Worthington Middle School teacher Keri Statema (back, middle) appears ready to tear her hair out before it gets shaved this morning. Joining her are students representing the eighth grade class that raised the most money in the penny war. They include Nathoe Vorasane (front, from left) and Tania Rodriguez. Row two: Ben Penning and Clara Fuentes. Row three: Eli Gaul and Leslie Resendiz; and back: Mathias Johnson, Statema and Micah Johnson. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Worthington Middle School special education teacher Keri Statema was being a good sport Monday, considering her hair will be shaved off this morning in front of a video camera and the scene will be live-streamed through every single classroom in the school.

Posing for a photo with some of the eighth-grade students who collected the most money during last Friday's Penny War, Statema grabbed her hair in both hands while she still can. She was one of nine WMS teachers who volunteered to be in a contest during last week's Pennies for Patients campaign, which raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Overall, the fifth- through eighth-grade students, along with teachers and staff, chipped in their change -- and some $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills --to raise $2,809.80. The coins and cash filled ice cream buckets, Culligan water jugs, boxes and bags.

Student Council advisor and teacher Carissa Franken, along with sixth-grade teacher Corey Barfknecht, helped coordinate this year's Pennies for Patients campaign. This year's goal was $2,000 and students far exceeded that goal, bringing in more money than what was collected in each of the past three years.

Money was raised through different campaigns each day. To kick off last week's campaign, students had to guess the number of pennies in a jar; Tuesday was "Pounds for Patients," where students donated pennies to each advisory. The advisory collecting the heaviest amount of pennies won the pennies from all of the other advisories in that grade level. Teacher Katie Schmahl won the contest with 36.1 pounds of money collected.

Wednesday was the "How High for Who?" contest, in which Statema and eight other teachers collected coins and cash, with the one to collect the most money getting a shaved head. Thursday's campaign was "Put a Cap on Cancer," with students donating $1 if they wanted to wear their cap in school throughout the day.

Finally, on Friday, the Penny War was on. Students in each grade level were asked to bring in as many pennies as they could. If they brought in other coins or cash, they could "bomb" another grade level's collection efforts, counteracting the pennies those grades brought in.

"The whole challenge was won by the eighth grade," said Franken, adding that the Class of 2017 brought in $772.29 in pennies.

Throughout the week, the students could see which grade was in the lead by looking at the display of Culligan jugs containing the copper-colored coins.

"Every day the kids were wondering who was in the lead and who they should bomb," said Barfknecht.

"It was just a fun time," added Franken. "There was some good camaraderie between the kids. The eighth grade really stepped it up on the last day. They did some planning and working together."

Statema, a second-year teacher in the district, said she's a little nervous about the head shaving, which will be done in the school's media center this morning.

"I know that so many cancer patients lose their hair. If they can do it, I can do it to help raise money," she said Monday morning.

Statema's class worked together to bring a "bag of pennies" to school last Wednesday. Of the nine teachers who volunteered to collect cash and coins, Statema raised the most money.

"I put in a check for $30 because I figured that's two months of haircuts that I wouldn't have to pay for, and I want it to go to a good cause," she said, adding that a paraprofessional also put $20 in her bucket.

Throughout the day Wednesday, Statema said students kept asking her if she was really going to shave her head.

"Some of the girls are a little nervous -- they can't believe I'm going to do it," she said.

With winter not quite over, Statema already has stocking caps waiting to cover her chrome dome when she's out and about, but when she's inside the classroom, "I'm just going to let it go," she said with a laugh.

While the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is a national organization, Minnesota is part of the Midwest Region that also includes South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

"It's used to help families pay their medical bills, to help them with their everyday expenses," Franken said.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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