Laura LaBella of Lansing has always been a fan of syndicated "Household Hints" columnist Heloise and admits she reads her daily in The Times.
As of this month, LaBella has earned Heloise another two dozen young fans after a classroom project from last spring has put her fourth graders in the newspaper national spotlight this month.
"We were just ending the school year last semester in May when I read in Heloise's May 9 column with the headline: 'Calling All students to send in a Heloise hint,' " said LaBella, who has taught fourth grade at Oak Glen Elementary in Lansing for four years as part of her 14 years with School District 158.
"And that's when I had the idea to get the students involved and introduce them to what Heloise does in her column each day in The Times."
The column LaBella refers to included this invitation from Heloise to students and teachers: "How about a fun 'Hint to Heloise' project for students. Have them share a favorite hint for making their lives easier and more organized. Let students share their knowledge with other students and Heloise's readers! E-mail or write me and we'll pick a variety of hints to print in this column."
But before the project could begin, LaBella had to give her students a few quick hints of her own about the fabled history of Heloise, who she is and just how popular her column is with so many readers.
The undisputed "Sherlock Holmes of Household Hints," Heloise, is not only an internationally King Features syndicated newspaper columnist, featured in The Times seven days a week, she's also a contributing editor for Good Housekeeping magazine.
Heloise, (who legally changed her given name to Poncé Kiah Marchelle Heloise Cruse Evans... Phew!) is heralded my many as "America's No. 1 lifestyle manager" and a "hintologist extraordinaire."
This year marks the 33rd anniversary since Heloise took over her mother's column after she died at age 58 in 1977. The original Heloise founded the column, which was first called "The Reader's Exchange" and then "Hints with Eloise," the latter including her mother's real name before she legally changed it.
Today, Heloise has not only surpassed her mother's age, but she's also included in more than 450 newspapers, and is closing in on authoring nearly 20 books, with the latest being her new 416-page hardcover called "Handy Household Hints from Heloise: Hundreds of Great Ideas at Your Fingertips" (Rodale Press, $17.99) which hits stores this week.
LaBella said the students were fascinated by Heloise, who happily works from her home office in San Antonio, Texas, which is complete with a radio studio and her own "cleaning lab and staff offices," just 180 feet away from the comfort of her own living room.
LaBella challenged her students to come up with the "best and most creative tips" they could think of, while putting them on deadline before sending off the package to Heloise on May 13.
"I'll never forget how excited the whole school was when Heloise called our main office on June 4 asking to talk to me to announce she was using my students' tips," LaBella said.
Laura Krolak, the school office secretary, said she couldn't believe her ears when she answered the phone and heard Heloise introduce herself.
"My first words were 'Is this THE Heloise?' " Krolak said.
LaBella was even more pleased that Heloise called just days prior to the school's final day dismissal for summer vacation on June 14, so she could make the happy announcement before her students left.
"I was amazed how fast Heloise got back to me," LaBella said.
"And it would have been even sooner, but she originally thought our school was in Lansing, Mich."
As promised, Heloise published the student tips in August in the Sunday, Aug. 8 installment of her column, along with a kind "shout out" to the school and the surprise that she was also sending autographed copies of her latest "helpful pamphlet" to the school to arrive in time for the student's return from summer vacation this week on Monday.
"All of my students have now moved on to their assigned fifth grade classrooms, but they are going to be thrilled to find out they really did make it in print," LaBella said.
Heloise, speaking from her Texas home by telephone last week, said she was thrilled with the inventiveness of the student's helpful tips.
"I'm always so excited to hear from teachers," said Heloise, who lives with her husband of nearly 30 years, and sharing a stepson (Russell).
"When I graduated in 1974, I got my degree in business management along with a teaching certificate. Even though I began helping my mother with the column, which was right at its peak at that time, for the next three years, I hadn't planned on doing the column as my own occupation."
But working with newspaper outreach to students she says is vital to her emphasis of serving every generation of readers.
"My father was in the military, so we moved around a lot and he also worked for the Pentagon while I was growing up and living with my parents in their apartment in Washington D.C.," she said.
"But school, and education and the importance of reading were always the important emphasis and they still are today. I'm still learning everyday, especially from my readers, young and old, and the great ideas they share."