Teacher passes on love of books to students beginning next chapter

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — This school year has been a year unlike any other for students and their teachers.

English teacher Lisa Penninga at Forest Hills Central High School wanted to do something special for her seniors as they opened the next chapter in their lives. Penninga hosted a senior send-off drive-thru at her home, and it all revolved around her love for books.

It was made possible by a listing on Facebook Marketplace from a familiar woman offering to give away a bunch of books.

“I messaged her and said ‘hey, I don’t know if you remember me,’ — I was her English teacher more than a decade ago,” Penninga said. “She said ‘yes, I remember you, hi Ms. Penninga.’ I said ‘if you don’t mind I would love some of those books but I would need like 100 because I have 90 students in AP Lit.’ And she said ‘absolutely, I will drop them off at your house.’ And she dropped them off at my house and I wrapped a hundred books,” said Penninga.

The students were able to choose a book, but all they got were a few clues as to the genre of book underneath the brown paper wrapping.

“It goes along with what she taught us this year, the theme of appearance vs. reality. She was saying, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover, you never know what story they hold.’ That deals with people, but books as well. There were just piles of books, labeled fantasy, romantic comedy, lots of them,” said Annika Santos, a Forest Hills Central student in the class of 2021.

It was extra special for Penninga to see her students in person. She spent the entire year teaching from home, keeping her son who has a heart condition safe from COVID-19.

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