By Kathleen Ellyn
Wallowa County Chieftain
Magic came to Wallowa County last week.
Elementary students in all school districts in the county were treated to individual magic shows performed by Magician Jeff Evans. Evans, who produces more than 250 shows per year, is a specialist at creating presentations for children that emphasize a theme. For Wallowa County schools, it was “No Bullies Allowed.”
The program was presented by Building Healthy Families and was paid for through the organization’s prevention program. Jessi Howard, Building Healthy Families Prevention Coordinator, said that bullying was a topic that had been brought up by many individuals.
“Parents and schools raised concerns,” she said. “Building Healthy Families brings in a speaker every year, and we thought bringing bullying prevention and our usual yearly ‘message act’ together would kill two birds with one
stone.”According to the National Bullying Prevention center, school-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25 percent.
Even better, more than half of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied.
Evans also performed at a Family Night Magic Show in Enterprise on Nov. 28, with presentations in Enterprise and Wallowa. Wednesday morning he finished up in Joseph.
Evans began his school presentations by telling a story recalling how he didn’t like a new student because he didn’t know anything about him.
Later, he discovered that his assumptions about the student were wrong and they became friends. He asked the students if any of them had the experience of being reluctant to get to know someone new. Many hands shot up.
Having established himself as someone who made mistakes and then learned “just like you,” Evans was able to show, rather than lecture, how everyone could learn to be a buddy, not a bully, by learning how to be “upstanders” rather than “bystanders.”
That positive and interactive approach is a hallmark of Evans’ shows. He was named Children’s Magic Champion at the Pacific Coast Association of Magician’s 2000 convention.
“It was a wonderful program,” said Wallowa Supt. Bret Uptmor. “The kids were engaged and really interacted with the material and knew lots of answers to his questions.”
Although he produces several other programs on self-esteem, reading and science, Evans said he began to see a need for a program on bullying, he said, and he worked for about nine months to develop his positive attitude program into a program that focused on bullying.
“Magic is pretty universally popular,” Evans said. “Kids respond to it.” Parents and teachers along with administrators and teachers alike were constantly laughing along with the kids and joyfully pointing out reactions of awe and surprise among their students that tickled them.
“Everybody was extremely pleased,” said Enterprise Supt. Erika Pinkerton.
Evans began his career at 12 with a magic book. He’s now a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Pacific Coast Association of Magicians and the Tacoma Magic Club. He’s regularly called to perform for adult events at Fortune 500 companies as well.
Unbeknownst to teachers, classes had voted on who was the most skilled at giving “warm fuzzies” and praise to others. Those individuals were worked into a magic trick and then revealed.
“Winners” at Joseph were Olan Fulfer, Jacob Micka, Shari Warnock and instructional assistant Tonya Collier; Enterprise honored parent volunteers Rhonda Harguess and Lorien James, and instructional assistants Toni Iyoha and Vikki Olsen; and Wallowa honored district secretary Pam Stitzel, Terah April and student Scotlyne
Names of local teachers and administrators were also worked into the storytelling as fictional characters that were positive examples (“Wise Queen Kilgore of the Land of Harmony,” for instance, for Joseph Principal Sherri Kilgore).
There has been and will continue to be plenty of continuing involvement in the anti-bullying campaign throughout the schools.
“We’ve done lots of activities during the week, and we have a handprint poster of all the kids making their pledge to be a buddy not a bully,” said Uptmor. “It was a good week.”