Tier Two

Briarcliff Manor Union Free School District

Students Revive the Tradition of Hand-Written Letters

When was the last time you received a hand-written letter in the mail? For many students at Briarcliff High School, apart from holiday cards, the answer is “never.” Letter writing is indeed a dying tradition, but English teacher Dr. Thomas Kenney hopes to revive it among his students.

Dr. Kenney assigned students in Write Out Loud class to handwrite and mail three letters each week to anyone they chose. Suggestions included a relative, an old friend, a politician, a celebrity, or a spiritual leader.

The assignment covered the history of letter writing and included practical tips on how to address the envelope, what to include and what to avoid in the letter as well as how to find someone’s address.

Students were also required to record their letters in a log.

Dr. Kenney, who was named Educator of Excellence in 2015 by New York State, had several goals in mind when first creating the assignment back in 2020.

“The initial impulse, since it was created during the lockdown of 2020, was to help combat the social isolation that the pandemic was imposing on everyone,” he said.

The other goal was to help revive a dying tradition.

“For many students, the tradition of letter writing has been completely replaced by electronic communication,” he said. “Therefore, I included a lot of history and context in the assignment to address this.”