The More Things Change…

The More Things Change

When my oldest — now a college freshman — started kindergarten, I started advising yearbook. That was 2000; we cut photos and glued them into collages. I loved creating a book that would preserve my son’s school days and when the students and teachers cherished our work at year’s end, I knew my time had been well spent.

My work with the yearbook continued until Austin moved out of the lower school. Then I had a few years off before our Halle started school and I resumed my role as yearbook adviser.

Our school was larger by then and I reached out to friends, encouraging them to join me. “It’s like scrapbooking,” I told them. “It’s fun. Get in here with me!” We worked together on our labor of love, collecting photos, making sure everyone was included and trying to create a book that’s fresh each year.

Since then, Elam has arrived on campus and we decided to go digital. It’s easier… and more fun, but our team continues to collaborate with teachers for pictures that preserve the year’s precious memories for our kids. A quick email to all teachers at the start of the year and a reminder after the holidays seem to do the trick. We ask for shots of special events and daily life in each classroom — and we encourage the teachers to include a couple of group shots so that all students have several photos in the yearbook.

We now use Pinterest for inspiration and we Google search photo ideas as well as brainstorming together, but our goal remains the same. We’re all about new and different. We really want the kids to wonder what the book will be like. And when they get their yearbook, we want them to look back and feel the love pop right off the pages so they’ll never forget the year.

We do the book with a small team — usually two to five of us. We divide up the work and get to it. Most of the time, we work on the yearbook at school, but it’s great that we can work at home during breaks as well. And it’s important that we know we can count on each other. Last year, my friend Alana took over when I had some health challenges. We’d worked as a team so we were on the same page. She was amazing. I didn’t have to worry about the yearbook and the whole group later celebrated my beating breast cancer together.

At our school, the joy of creating the yearbook is magnified by the reception it receives on campus. The school makes the book’s arrival a big part of year-end festivities. The teachers and administration work together to choose a time when we can all celebrate another successful year together. The students receive their books and have their friends sign them.

That’s when our work is finally done. Those last few weeks, I am so excited and anxious I can’t sleep at night. I can’t wait until the yearbook comes in. And then I’m right there in middle of it all. I love watching the students find themselves and their friends in the book and hearing their excitement about our school, our year. That’s my reward right there.

The 2015 volume is my last book here; a new teacher with yearbook experience will lead the team next year. And though some of the details may change, their goal will not. They will strive to create a yearbook that proudly preserves the school year for all of the students, their teachers and parents.

Mary Jane Stillwell

Mary Jane Stillwell

Yearbook Adviser
Abraham Lincoln Elementary School Hodgenville, KY

Making my kids smile is my goal each day. We have a busy schedule and a full house; we were recently joined by an eight-pound puppy that stole our hearts. I was delighted when my husband, David, conceded to adding Max — a Shih Tzu who's so ugly he's gorgeous — to the mix last spring.
Mary Jane Stillwell

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