Higher education met with elementary education this week in the Edison Elementary School and both levels got a lift from the meeting.

The smell of pizza provided a special atmosphere for the surprise party staged by Westminster College education students for the sixth-graders in Frank Gertino's class.The sixth-graders are not problem students just students in an ordinary class who have accomplished extraordinary things in literature. The Deseret News regrets the misinterpretation.

The college students were returning a favor. Earlier, the Edison students had put on a demonstration for the Westminster students, who are teachers-in-the-making.

Gertino has developed an outstanding literature program for his sixth-graders. They learn and discuss college-level poetry and delight in reciting it for anyone who will listen.

When Christy Foley, Westminster assistant professor of education, and her students arrived at Edison, students eagerly volunteered poetry recitations.

"Mr. G., I want to do it, please!" said Tomas Cortez. He did a great version of "The Man He Killed." Robert Roundy recited "Double Dialogue" and B.J. White held forth with "Wish Me a Rainbow." It wasn't the usual stand-still-and-say-it reading, either. The students emoted as they walked around the classroom, ending where they'd begun.

The college students brought gifts for their visit to Edison, primarily books for Gertino's class members. No one would guess that these sixth-graders are students who had been thought to be "problems" in other classes.

Lexie Somerville, Edison principal, also greeted the Westminster delegation for the special event.

While Gertino's sixth-graders are extraordinary in their literary accomplishments, they're extraordinarily ordinary in their response to pizza.

"Ooooo, pizza!" was the most common line recited as they lined up for the treat (provided gratis by Domino's Pizza).

Gertino's 30 students learn a poem a week, every week. They discuss a poem at the beginning of the week and tell how it makes them feel, why it's important, and what it has to say. Some of the students came into the program thinking poetry was for sissies, he said. When he finds them now browsing in the library to find more poems, it's a special payback for his efforts.

For the Westminster visitors, the special occasion had them thinking about classes they might some day have and how they might learn from Gertino's approach to literature, said Dan McCullough. He told the sixth-graders he hopes someday they might walk the halls of Westminster or other institutions of higher learning.

McCullough said the college contingent planned the party to reward the Central City students for going beyond the normal requirements and exploring an added dimension of literature.