As a student at St. Thomas Lutheran School in Eastpointe, Michigan, Samantha Berkseth liked attending the handwriting classes that all elementary grade students were required to take.
“I always loved it,” Samantha said. “I was artistic and creative, so handwriting was another way to use those skills.”
Samantha attended St. Thomas in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The school required students to take a handwriting class each year through the fifth grade. One of the class assignments was always the entry form for the Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest.
Samantha entered each year and earned a state winner title twice.
“I was really excited to win,” Samantha said. “Winning the contest validated my feeling that I did a good job with my cursive. I knew I did it well, and it was nice to be recognized for that. Someone came to my school and gave me a certificate. I also got a pen with my name on it. It’s fun to remember that.”
Samantha went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from Valparaiso University. She graduated from Texas Tech University with a master’s degree in atmospheric science in 2016.
Samantha currently lives in Norman, Oklahoma, and is looking for a scientific research position in meteorology. “Norman is the best chance to find a job in meteorology because there is so much research going on here,” she said. “I’d like to work at the National Weather Center, which has many different divisions committed to research. We can use the results of that research to help save lives and implement better policy.”
While she pursues her dream job, Samantha is working as a freelance artist, creating watercolor paintings and pencil drawings that reflect meteorological data. “It’s fun to see your creative style come out in a way you don’t expect,” she said.
Samantha’s creativity still comes through in her cursive writing, a skill she continues to use. In fact, she prefers cursive over print and finds herself writing by hand as much as she texts or types.
Samantha can’t say for sure if there’s a connection between her use of cursive writing and her academic achievements. She does believe, however, that the mentality that helped her win the handwriting contest has helped her excel in other areas of her life.
“I don’t think I did well in school or got job opportunities because of my handwriting, but my handwriting courses taught me proper form and attention to detail,” she said. “That mindset to produce quality work has stuck with me.”
That’s one of the reasons why Samantha believes that it’s important for schools to teach print and cursive handwriting. “Most people use their laptops and phones, but you can’t always rely on that,” she said. “There will always be times when people need to write by hand.”
With her experience, academic training and commitment to excellence, Samantha has a bright future ahead of her!