Some things you just don't learn in basic training.
Grant Lattin, former Marine and first-year teacher at Antietam Elementary in Woodbridge, wondered how to keep his 26 fifth-graders interested in school while sunny skies and vacation beckoned.
Following a parent's suggestion, Lattin decided to take a pie in the face in the name of reading. Ten pies, in fact.
For a month, Lattin challenged his class through the Accelerated Reader program at Antietam. Students read books and took computerized comprehension tests at their own pace. The harder the book, the more points the students earned. And the payoff was a shot at Lattin. The 10 students with the most points earned the right to throw a pie tin full of whipped cream at Lattin during their end-of-year class party Monday.
"This is payback for all homework!" yelled 11-year-old Rachel Spence, who read five books and earned 39 points, garnering her the sixth spot on the pie-throwing lineup. Her pie hit Lattin but didn't catch him full in the face.
"No other teacher would do that," Rachel said afterward. "Mr. Lattin just puts up with us throwing pies at him."
Genevieve Heckel, 11, read three books, but one, "David Copperfield," was worth more than 50 points. Tackling Charles Dickens guaranteed her a spot.
"I really wanted to be a pie thrower, so I wanted to get a lot of points," Genevieve said. "I thought it was a great idea." Her pie, however, missed.
Lattin said getting creamed was worth it.
"The result was incredible," Lattin said. "You have to understand that 200 points in a year is a lot. We have a kid that earned 109 points this month."
That was Maya Dangerfield, 11, who as the top point-getter in class read 25 books to earn those points, including "Mandy," "Little Women" and a Nancy Drew mystery.
Parent Keith Davidson said the pie-throwing reward had his son Joel reading two books at a time.
"He was so excited. He likes reading, anyway, but when he heard about this, he was like, `How do I get to do that?' " Davidson said.
Joel read eight books and earned 79 points, the second-highest point total in the class. His pie aim was a little high, but he made sure Lattin got the full effect by running up between pie throwers and putting whipped cream on his teacher's face.
But Lattin didn't get off pie-in-the-face free. As the last to throw, the pressure was on Maya Dangerfield, who scored with a direct hit.
"He's pretty nice to let us throw pies at him," Maya said.
Joel added, "Sometimes I think he's too nice."
CAPTION: Grant Lattin, a first-year teacher of fifth graders at Antietam Elementary in Woodbridge, takes one for the cause as a pie target. The game was a reward for top students readers. Maya Dangerfield, below, lands a direct hit on Lattin as the last student to throw a pie tin of whipped cream.