Winsor students learn about table manners and dining etiquette from former king’s staffer

Winsor students learn about table manners and dining etiquette from former king’s staffer

Kindergartener Levi Foster smiles for a picture before eating his chicken parmesan lunch, a meal specially prepared for William Winsor Elementary School’s “Formal Day” held last Thursday. (Breeze photos by Melanie Thibeault)

SMITHFIELD – Sharing a name with a Disney princess and having worked for a king in the Middle East, a visiting etiquette instructor easily had students’ attention at William Winsor Elementary School last Thursday morning.

Five years ago, Snezana Pejic, whose name translates to “Snow White” in her native Serbia, founded The Etiquette Academy of New England, an educational institute that offers etiquette training for children, teens, and adults.

During workshops or weeks-long courses, students can learn about table manners, “how to be a gracious guest or host,” public speaking, and even social media etiquette, Pejic told The Valley Breeze & Observer.

As part of “Formal Day” at Winsor, Pejic gave students a crash course in table manners during two presentations – one for students in kindergarten through 2nd-grade and another for 3rd- through 5th-grade.

“I’m honored to meet with such mature kids here,” Pejic said at the beginning of her talk with the older students.

Winsor Principal Brian Ackerman told The Observer that he was “looking forward to seeing what everyone learned” after Pejic’s talk.

While Winsor has hosted similar etiquette days in the past, the school hadn’t held anything like this for a few years. Parents and staff wanted to bring it back, he said.

After Thursday’s event, Ackerman said he was pleased with the results and hopes to host it again next year.

As Pejic said, “It’s never too late to learn more about manners.” She told students that they could teach their siblings and even their parents something new about etiquette after the day’s lesson.

In roughly hour-long sessions, Pejic spoke about the basics – “mannerly words,” such as “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me.” Poised and always maintaining eye contact, she made an effort to give “air high-fives” to students when they answered a question correctly.

She enchanted students when she told them that she worked for the late King Hussein of Jordan at the Royal Jordanian Air Force in the 1990s, “training in royal protocol and etiquette” – even eliciting a few gasps from the young audience.

Later, after moving to the United States, she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in finance and e-commerce from Boston University, according to her company’s website.

After giving a brief background about herself, Pejic moved on to table manners, explaining the proper setting for forks, knives, spoons, and napkins, noting that it’s proper to put the napkin on one’s lap as soon as one sits down at the table.

Her presentation was interactive, as students practiced keeping their elbows off their tables and passing food to their peers.

After quizzing the students and teachers, Pejic said that dishes of food should be passed around the table counterclockwise.

And when is it time to start eating? When everyone at the table has been served, “even if the food in front of you is a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting,” she said.

After her talk, students, many donned in suits and dresses, filed into the cafeteria to put their new table manners to use by enjoying lunch with their peers and teachers.

Music filled the cafeteria, the lights were dimmed, and a meal of chicken parmesan was prepared by Aramark.

Tables, set by several parent volunteers, were decorated with white table cloths, vases of flowers, and candles.

Nick Gullino, a 1st-grader, said that he liked the “fancy” lunch and that he learned “you need to have the napkin on your lap right when you sit down.”

While enjoying lunch, 4th-grader Lex Tremblay told The Observer that he enjoyed “being together, all suited up,” with his friends.

One of his friends, Zachary Rose, a fellow 4th-grader, said his favorite part about the day was “drinking San Pellegrino (water) and having fun with my friends.”

Kindergarten teacher Jessica Lakeway told The Observer that it’s “so fun we get to sit with the students at lunchtime. The kids are really excited. I think everybody looks so nice.”

For more information about The Etiquette Academy of New England, visit www.thecommunicationacademy.org .

Erin Dubuc, a 2nd-grade teacher at William Winsor Elementary School, talks with 2nd-grade student Samantha Floor during Thursday’s special “Formal Day” luncheon in the cafeteria.
Gayle Mooney, a 2nd-grade teacher, put on her wedding dress to celebrate “Formal Day.” Pictured with her are her 2nd-grade students, from left, Isabella Libutti, JessICa Ross, Rian Boynes, and Avery Ferreira.
Snezana Pejic, the founder of The Etiquette Academy of New England, holds a workshop about table manners and proper dining etiquette at William Winsor Elementary School last Thursday morning. The event was part of a “Formal Day” at the school, which concluded with a special lunch for students and teachers.