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Zorro-like character helps kindergartners learn to count

Physical education teacher, Larry Selchow, makes his final appearance as Zero the Hero Monday in Kris Egge's Lincoln Elementary School kindergarten room to celebrate 100 days in school. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- Zero the Hero made his final appearance at the Lincoln Elementary School kindergarten rooms Monday afternoon, to celebrate 100 days in school.

The Zorro-like character, in black hat, mask and cape, has been visiting the kindergartners throughout the school year to talk about numbers.

Zero entered the room as three classes of kindergartners sat waiting in Kris Egge's classroom, counting together to 100. He slowly waded into the crowd of beaming little people and counted with them, "ninety-one, ninety-two, ninety-three, ninety-four," until they reached one hundred.

"Isn't this great," exclaimed Zero, who looked a lot like physical education teacher Larry Selchow. "I have to tell you how excited I am; I remember how well you could count the first day of kindergarten."

Zero talked to the students about numbers and counting before he told them that he was making his last visit to them, "because you've already got all the numbers now."

Everything was about 100 on Monday afternoon. While they waited for Zero's arrival, students made construction paper crowns. They decorated the white construction paper bands with stars, hearts and dots -- 10 each of 10 different designs. Each crown had a construction paper "100" on the front.

As each student in Egge's classroom finished, she would staple the ends together, place the crown on the child's head and say, "You are crowned King (or Queen) One Hundred."

As they sat in their story area wearing crowns, the children followed Egge in counting 100 three different ways, by ones, fives and 10s.

Children from Joan Kuhn's and Chelsea Brown's classrooms came in, sat down and joined in with the counting.

Before he left, Zero promised that the children would get a treat today, which is officially their 100th day. "As always, it will be a zero," he said, holding up an individually wrapped LifeSavers candy.

Selchow said the kindergarten teachers approached him with the idea of Zero, and he agreed to it right away. He's just wrapped up his third year of being Zero. "It really works, they learn their numbers," he said. Selchow said he's not sure if he'll be Zero next year, because the School Board is considering closing Lincoln, but he'd like to do it if he could.

Egge said the teachers read about the idea on the Internet and asked Selchow to be Zero. Celebrating the 100th day of school is fun for the kids, and they spend the week counting to 100 in many different ways, she said. Even the kids who weren't counting all the way at the beginning of the week are doing it by the end, she said.

Principal Beckie Simenson said the kids all know who he really is, but Zero is still a hit. "It gets them excited about learning math, and that's what we're all about."