The 2020-21 school year proved challenging for students and educators, however one teacher set out to embrace the changes when she gave her two fourth grade classes at Northside Elementary an assignment to create a magazine.

The project, “Your News/ You’re News,” was a summation of the school year experienced by each student.

“This was a fun way for students to reflect on their year as well as tie in all the skills we’ve worked on in ELA (English/Language Arts) this year. It (the project) was all about news that relates to them and is about them,” teacher Shelby Gadeke said. “Each student did create his/her own magazine.”

The assignment began with a list of articles to choose from to include in the magazine, from book reviews to memories, technology, tourist attractions and vacation hot spots, poetry, an article about a person who is an inspiration, “day in the life” which focuses on a daily time-line of a typical day, hobbies, headline news and some editorial pieces on “then and now,” a look ahead in 15 years and an article on a subject the student feels strongly about.

The book review was a popular topic, because “we read a lot of books together in class this year thanks in great part to all of the donors in our community who sponsored my classes to purchase each child a book,” Gadeke said. “My students had a lot of great books to choose from and I was delighted to see how some of these books left lasting positive impressions on them.”

Another topic most used was the inspiration piece.

“The inspiration article was also very popular,” she said. “It warmed my heart to read the wonderful things these kiddos wrote about their parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, friends, coaches and teachers. There are some excellent role models out there.”

Also, on the top of the list was headline news.

“The headline news was also a big one. From topics like wearing masks, returning to in-person school and the big freeze,” Gadeke said. “That was something they won’t forget.”

Students Emmarie Barnes and Ava Acosta loved the challenge of the project for several reasons.

“I like that everyone got to read the magazines at the end of the project and give each other feedback,” Barnes said. “It was like we were real reporters. Writing the articles was fun, but I really enjoyed finding pictures to go with them. After we got it all checked by Mrs. Gadeke, I used a template to make it look more like a real magazine.”

“I liked creating a magazine about myself because I was able to share my story,” Acosta said. “I was able to share what is important to me with my classmates. I liked that I was able to be creative and write my own poems and book reviews. The project was fun because it was all about me.”

Some students simply used colored paper and pencils or even plain paper to create their magazine. For a computer generated magazine, some used Google Slides or Canva.

Gadeke created this project years ago when she was teaching at El Campo Middle School, starting with a poster board type project.

She perfected the project over the years, in hopes to allow students an opportunity to create something to reflect and look back on their year.

“My first year teaching, my partner teacher and I wanted to incorporate what we’d taught all year and we had kids write a newspaper on a large poster board,” she said. “I’ve adapted the project over the years with different grades and expectations. My kids have always impressed me with what they come up with. They knock my socks off year after year,” she said.

“I hope my students realize that every year in school is a chapter of their own story, and each chapter is worth reflecting on now and down the road. I also hope that I was able to subtly tie in all of the skills we’ve worked on in class this year in a nice neat package and they could show their mastery in real world application.

Gadeke, who has been an educator for 17 years, will be leaving the classroom to be an instructional coach at Hutchins Elementary.

“Ideally, I will be able to help teachers bring out the best they have to offer the kids in ECISD,” she said.

She says she will miss the classroom, but is excited she will be able to help students in a new way.

“Without a doubt, what I will miss most about my own classroom is the daily interaction and connections with students,” Gadeke said. “They’re the reason we all do what we do. They’re funny, witty, charismatic, inquisitive. Fortunately, I will still be in classrooms a lot and have opportunities to work with students.”

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