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Kindergartners count on Westfahl, from No. 1 to Zero

Jan. 5, 2011

ox Point — Fox Point - Most students know him as Dr. Westfahl.

But in the blink of an eye, the Stormonth Elementary School principal has been known to transform from mild-mannered administrator to a would-be superhero whose mission is to help kindergarteners love learning.

When he assumed the principalship this fall, Dan Westfahl said he knew of Zero the Hero's legacy at Stormonth. Linda Moore, his predecessor, used to wear a jacket with the moniker written on it. While it was not included in his job description, Westfahl said he was happy to continue the Stormonth tradition.

"That costume really is enough to have a different identity," he said. "It's been a lot of fun for me. It's a great way to connect with the kids."

While Westfahl was content continuing the tradition, he wanted to give it his own flair. After visiting a costume shop, Westfahl purchased a Superman costume and made a few tweaks to it. Instead of "Superman," the costume proudly has big zeroes written on it.

But Zero is no zero to the 5-year-old kindergarteners who receive a visit from Westfahl's alter ego every 10 days school is in session.

"He's helping us learn to count to 10," kindergartener Laine Sperry said gleefully and proudly. "He's funny."

Stormonth's kindergarten classrooms keep a running tally of how many days school is in session, so students always know when Zero will be paying a visit. His next venture, slated for Friday, will be the 80th day of school.

Westfahl said Zero has something special up his cape on the 100th day of school, Feb. 7, assuming snow days do not alter the school schedule.

Most of Zero's visits center around counting. The superhero will share with students how to count through a variety of methods, be it by 5 or 10. Age-appropriate activities accompany Zero's appearances. The initiative is tied directly into kindergarten curriculum at Stormonth.

But do the students know Dr. Westfahl and Zero the Hero are one in the same?

"I know it's him," kindergartener Mimi Ellegard said, with a laugh. "He always comes out of the office with his glasses on when he's wearing the costume."

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