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SHALLOTTE—When fifth grade Union Elementary School teacher Ginny Pridgen agreed to dye her hair pink if all of her 50 students passed the math portion of the End of Grade tests, she never thought she’d have to make due on her end of the bargain.
Pridgen began preparing about 50 students for the math EOGs in March several months after the fifth-grade math teacher went on maternity leave.
Having never taught math before, she began after school study sessions, encouraged peer tutoring, called the test “the Super Bowl,” and encouraged the students to tackle it as a team.
“They called me Coach Pridgen,” she said. “I worked them to death. I told them, ‘We’re going to work so hard that when it comes, you’re going to think it’s easy.’”
Pridgen also promised the students a reward if they all passed. When she asked what they wanted, the students said they wanted Pridgen to dye her hair pink and eat a worm.
“I’ve always heard how hard the math EOG is,” she said. “In the back of my mind, I never thought I’d have to follow through with it.”
The students were tested on geometry, equations, and fractions last week. Pridgen said the students were more than prepared and all “passed with flying colors.”
When the unofficial results came back, Pridgen gathered all the students in her room, slammed the door shut and addressed the students in an “angry” tone.
“We’ve got a problem,” she told the students last week. “I’ve got to dye my hair pink!”
It took the students a moment to realize they all passed the EOGs, and they erupted into cheers, Pridgen said.
Jill Gray of Hair Solutions in Shallotte, the mother of one of Pridgen’s students, came to school Monday morning to dye Pridgen’s hair. Gray first bleached a section of hair while students watched and then applied the pink—semi-permanent— dye.
Students said they picked the color pink “because pink is cool,” and “It’s what the punk kids are doing,” and “It’ll make you look younger,” they told Pridgen.
Pridgen said she wanted to follow through with her end of the bargain to show the students how proud of them she was.
“I want them to know that they worked hard for it,” she said. “And to tell you the truth, I’m kind of excited about it.”
Pridgen also shocked students Monday when she ate a live worm while having her hair dyed.
“I’m practicing to go on ‘Survivor’,” she said, joking with her students after eating the worm.
Pridgen said while she has never taught math before, she hopes to be able to do it again next year, as it never bores her and proves to be a constant challenge.
“I found out that I really like it,” she said.
And while she may like her freshly dyed pink hair, the students will have to think of a different reward to work toward next year.
“I’ll have to think on that, but it won’t be anything to do with hair, I can tell you that,” Pridgen said.
Kathryn Jacewicz is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at email@example.com