I have a new pen pal, and she’s obsessed with cheetahs

The first letter showed up on my keyboard Wednesday.

“Do you want to be pen pals, Dad?” my third grader wrote in red ink.  “That’s when I write a letter to you before school and you write one back.”

How could I say no? Parlie’s been talking about participating in a pen pal program at school. She’ll partner with a peer at another school and they’ll exchange letters regularly.

I was glad she wanted to test the water with me. Plus, it’s been a tough year for her and her two younger sisters — school disruptions during COVID-19, a baby’s on the way and we’re moving to a new town in December.

“Let’s do this,” I wrote back. “Question: Can it involve chocolate?”

A mini KitKat bar taped to an orange sticky note graced my keyboard the next morning.

“Yes Dad, we can do treats.”


Not having to sneak her Halloween candy this year has been nice. So has learning more about each other.

  • I have “fantastic cursive,” she writes, I should be nicer to our dog when she runs away and my hair totally looks better short.
  • Parlie’s hoping for a little brother we can name Cal, basketball — not volleyball — is her favorite sport and she earned lunch with her teacher for doing the right things in class last week.

She’s also obsessed with cheetahs. I can’t pin down when it happened, but it’s helping her learn.

“Do you want to see the cheetah slideshow I’m working on for class?” she wrote in a letter Friday.

How could I say no?

For 20 minutes, she scrolled through Google Slides she’s been creating in class.

“Did you know about this?” I asked my wife, who shook her head.

I didn’t even know she could create a Google Slide. And hers were jammed with information:

  • Cheetahs can accelerate from zero to 45 miles an hour in 2.5 seconds.
  • Top speed: 60-70 miles an hour.
  • Their bones are “very light” and they have special padding on their paws.
  • A single cheetah has 2,000 to 3,000 spots.

That last one didn’t seem right, so I fact checked her. It checked out.

“Any questions?” she asked after the presentation.

I had a few. I’ll put them in my next letter.

The Bodkins: Nayvie, Nicki, Parlie, Devin and Emerie.
Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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