WORTHINGTON - While there are no shortage of remarkable athletes throughout southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa, there are many standouts in the classroom as well.


One such contingent of students achieving a standard of excellence is comprised of sixth- through eighth-graders at Worthington Middle School, who their own diligence have earned membership in the Million Words Club. Deb Jaycox, general manager and director of operations at GreatLIFE Worthington, which sponsors The Drill, is eager to make sure these youths get the recognition they deserve.


“This is an award that some child is going to get that might not ever get another award,” Jaycox daid. “They might not be the best athlete or the best student, so I thought, ‘Wow, we should reward these kids by letting them know that, hey, this is an important thing for them and that should be rewarded along with the best athlete and the best student.”


WMS sixth-grade teacher Jody Madsen started the Million Words Club program about five or six years. Madsen discussed the program in a recent interview that’s featured in this week’s episode of The Drill.


Q: What prompted you to start the Million Words Club?   


A: “I found that a lot of my really good readers stopped reading after they met their AR goal. Every quarter the kids have a goal that they need to meet by taking quizzes on books that they read. In order to make that better and more productive for the kids, I decided to start something where, if they earned a million words, I would take them out for lunch.”


Q: How has the program continued to grow over recent years?


A: “Two years ago, I approached our reading language arts committee and asked if they would be interested in making this a schoolwide event rather than just a classroom event. They were all for it because we saw several students who were excellent readers or even students who struggled to read - they didn’t feel motivated enough to read and take the quizzes and meet their goals - (earn club membership).”


Q: So, do you really take all these kids out to lunch?


A: “Usually, first quarter, we start off with maybe six or seven kids that earn the million words. To read a million words in a quarter is a huge feat (for students) on top of all their other homework and classroom assignments that they need to do, but by the end of the year, we’re over 100. So every quarter gets a little bit more, which means Duffer’s this year went from having six or seven kids first quarter to serving over 100 meals for us fourth quarter.”


This week’s episode of The Drill can be viewed at dglobe.com.