Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Students Put Good Manners On Display

The Message photo by Trisha Hannon Smith


Not a single elbow rested on the tables as 28 third-grade students from St. Benedict Cathedral School in Evansville dressed in their Sunday best and enjoyed a meal at the Evansville Country Club during the annual Manners Luncheon on May 11.

For more than 20 years, St. Benedict third-graders have learned the finer points of etiquette from teacher Madalyn Steckler.  

“In 1996, my aunt sent an article from the New York Times about a teacher who took her class in Boston to eat spaghetti,” said Steckler, explaining the origins of the Manners Luncheon, as it is now known at St. Benedict.  Steckler decided to create a similar activity for her third-graders. With the help of a good friend, she arranged a luncheon at the Evansville Country Club, accompanied by lessons in etiquette and conversational skills.

Students began this year’s event by presenting short summaries of each guest, sharing facts they had carefully researched.  The students conversed with the honored guests at their tables using these facts.

The third graders proved to be excellent students.

“I’m so glad to hear you like math!” Sally Sternberg, Diocesan Assistant Superintendent of Schools, told her tablemates, who had done their research on her background as a former math teacher.

Other honored guests included Bishop Joseph M. Siegel, who led the group in prayer before the meal; St. Benedict Cathedral rector Benedictine Father Godfrey Mullen;  Diocesan Superintendent of Schools Dr. Daryl Hagan, Diocesan Assistant Superintendent Michelle Priar; St. Benedict Cathedral School Principal Hank Carley; Benedictine Sister Patricia McGuire; and special St. Benedict volunteers.

Steckler, along with her current third-grade teaching partner, Donna Woehler, notes that the lessons taught carry into daily routines at school.  “Students learn how to speak at appropriate levels for table conversations instead of screaming down the hall,” Woehler said with a smile. “We practice the basics year round.”

The students practiced basics throughout the schools year such as saying please and thank you, holding doors, waiting politely in line and speaking conversationally in the cafeteria. They said they know this will help them later on in life because having good manners is important to get along with others.


The students got their wiggles out prior to the luncheon by going bowling. They bowled for two hours, expending enough energy to make sitting still politely a bearable task.

And judging by the smiles and lively conversation, all in attendance greatly enjoyed the event.