Stone Creek Charter’s students get etiquette lessons

Stone Creek Charter School's Ascha Marsh gets a lesson in tying a tie from Abby Jurgeson, as part of a Stone Creek's lessons about manners and etiquette.
Randy Wyrick| |

GYPSUM — Life is not a standardized test.

Because you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and unlike anything forced into your head at knifepoint for a standardized test, there’s some life stuff you really do need to know:

• How to shake hands and introduce yourself.

• How to enjoy a formal dinner without getting so depressed about knife and fork choices that you put your napkin over your head and cry.

• How to tie a tie.

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• How to meet the queen.

This is stuff you’ll use every day, except maybe the queen thing. Whereas most of us get to the end of another day and say, “Well, I didn’t use anything I crammed into my brain for a standardized test.”

“It’s good to know nice manners,” said Hailey Ehman, Stone Creek Charter School second-grader.

Stone Creek Charter School’s kids know this stuff. Yeah, they do very well on standardized tests, too, but they know this stuff.

They know this stuff because they spent Monday at the Gypsum Creekside Grill at the Gypsum Creek Golf Club in Gypsum learning it.

“People have to go to YouTube to learn how to do this,” said John Brendza, Stone Creek principal.

Fourth-grade teacher Jussi Kurronen was teaching tie-tying. His Windsor knot was perfect.

Justin Dill and Brendza were teaching kids to shine shoes, because they don’t know how and Eagle County is nowhere near a major airport, and airports, as we know, are a life support system for the shoeshine stand. Shoeshines are the real reason you want to be there two hours before your flight.

Dill is a Vail police detective. Brendza’s dad was military, and so was he, so he knows how the shine goes.

His dad taught him, and gave him lots of chances to practice. Every Sunday night, the senior Brendza handed his son a few pairs of military shoes. The mission was clear.

Not many years later, Brendza was a 17-year-old GI, putting those life lessons to good use.

A basic shoeshine goes:

1. Dust with your brushes

2. Apply your polish

3. Buff them.

4. Buff them some more.

“I am not teaching these kids how to spit shine,” Brendza said smiling.

Capt. Scott Tucker, with High Altitude Army Aviation Training Site, was in full dress uniform, teaching kids to shake hands, look people in the eye as they do so, and introduce themselves correctly.

Brandy McLaughlin Ten Hoeve is the queen. She’s royal and yet one of us. Her tiara has flashing lights.

When Jimena Lopez meets the queen — and it’s when, not if — she’ll know how to curtsy correctly.

Manners are not mean

“We need manners so people aren’t mean to other people,” said Kylee Wilson, a Stone Creek Charter School second-grader.

Kellie D’Elia-Laskin worked for 20 years in some of Vail’s best restaurants, and taught table manners on Monday.

Many times at work, she dealt with people who could have used a little etiquette instruction at a formal table setting. Your mother was right, by the way. Keep your elbows off the table.

“At several points in your life you’re going to have to sit down to a formal dinner and thrive,” Brendza said.

The students got real life experience in a formal setting. Scott Berry’s Creekside Grill crew came in early to cook breakfast — something they don’t normally do.

“Anything to help the kids in this community, I’ll do it,” Berry said.

Stone Creek does these sessions several times a year, focusing on things like health, art, culinary skills and manners. They’re all organized by parents.

The upper school, grades 5 through 8, also does community service projects.

“When you use good manners, people know you’re respectful,” said Phedre Kempton.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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