Cats in the Classroom

"Hello! Hello!" the group of children shouted to their new favorite Wildcat volleyball players. Smiles and laughter filled the room.
Before she could take off her heavy winter coat, a group of girls grabbed Reininger's hand.
"Come see what we're painting!" one of the girls said as the group led Reininger across the classroom.
This month, just like they do every semester, over 50 K-State student-athletes participated in Cats in the Classroom. Through the volunteer-based event, the Wildcats sign up to spend time visiting local elementary schools. 
During the past two weeks, the student-athletes read to students, participated in class activities, played during recess and answered any and all questions the elementary school children had about each of their respective sports.
"It was so exciting to see all the energy and enthusiasm these kids bring to just normal little things that us older people take for granted," said Reininger. "It was really cool to get a little extra burst of happiness in my day."
When presented with the opportunity to sign up for Cats in the Classroom, Zumach and Reininger did not hesitate adding the classroom visits to their already busy schedules.
Though they didn't have to, "We signed up for as many days as we could," laughed Zumach, and over the course of the two weeks, Zumach and Reininger visited Shoemaker's first grade class four times.
"I really enjoyed seeing how much we made the kids' days," continued Zumach, her smile growing with every word. "They remembered our names right away! It was so cool to know we could have an impact on them."
Over the course of Zumach and Reininger's time with the first grade class, Shoemaker was teaching a series of assignments about (much to the volleyball players' liking) doughnuts.
The series of doughnut-related lessons started with the class reading the book 'Arnie the Doughnut' by Laurie Keller. After reading the book, the class made up their own doughnut characters, wrote their own doughnut stories, and, with the help of Zumach and Reininger, the first graders created their very own clay doughnuts.
"I really enjoyed having a few extra hands in the classroom when we were making the doughnuts. It was wonderful," said Shoemaker. "The girls were awesome. They were perfect for this age group too. The first day they were here, the kids just asked them questions. For half an hour they were just firing questions to them. They really got to talk about themselves and teach the kids a thing or two about volleyball."
Over the course of their visits, the children got to know Zumach and Reininger, and Zumach and Reininger got to know the children.
"I think for me, it really reminds me of why we play," said Reininger when asked what the biggest takeaway was after spending so much time in the classroom. "We play for the university and we play for the community, so it's cool to come back and be an inspiration for these little kids too. I'll keep it in mind when I'm playing because when you're in college and you're around the same age group all the time, it's easy to forget that there are families with little kids who are excited and love to come to games."
Added Zumach, "That was the best part for me, kids saying, 'I want to go to a volleyball game now!' Just getting them integrated with K-State was really cool. It was fun to see that happen and fun to be a part of."
To celebrate the final day of having their "K-State friends" visit (and the final day of the doughnut series), Shoemaker brought a special treat to the classroom.
"Doughnuts!" everyone shouted in unison when Shoemaker opened the box of sweet treats. More than enough to go around, Zumach and Reininger helped pass the doughnuts out. The final morning with their volleyball visitors was one to remember for the first graders.
"I think it was great to bring attention to K-State volleyball," concluded Shoemaker. "After their first day here, the girls asked the kids, 'So, what's your favorite sport?' and almost all of them replied, 'Volleyball!' Having that connection and excitement, and having our kids connecting with K-State student-athletes, it was really great.

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.