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St. Mary students interview author

Taylorville, IL – Sixth Grade students in Mrs. Schaeffer’s class recently held a Zoom interview with Bob Welch, author of “52 Little Lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life.” Schaeffer has included the book in her religion curriculum for several years. The book teaches valuable lessons on how one person’s life can make an impact on others.

To prepare for the interview, the students practiced writing open- ended questions by using Jamboard. This way, students were able to give each other feedback on their questions and make suggestions for improvement.

The sixth graders were surprised to learn that Welch spends about 15 hours per day writing. Welch shared that his favorite part of being a writer is making a difference in the way people think as well as making a difference in the world. As a result of Welch’s book, “American

Nightingale,” the true story about Frances Slanger, the first American nurse killed in WWII, a statue has been erected in Boston near the nursing school Slanger had attended.

Welch told the sixth graders that he had always wanted to become a writer. As a child, Welch played with the Tudor Tru Action electric football set. He called the play-by- play action of the game, then sat down to type a newspaper article about the game, along with illustrations in crayon. When he was in 5th grade, Welch’s teacher assigned an activity for students to research the career they would like to pursue. Welch was interested in becoming a sports writer, so his teacher arranged for him to interview a college basketball coach. He hasn’t stopped writing since that experience, having worked as a columnist for the Eugene, Oregon Register- Guard before retiring to write full-time.

Following the interview, students recorded their thoughts and details about the interview in their journals. For their next activity, students will write thank you notes to Welch for sharing his time with them, including a summary of what they learned from Welch.

Schaeffer had connected with Welch during the period of remote learning in 2020. She made the contact to get permission to record herself reading from his book and posting the videos to her students, since they had only gotten to chapter 17 when the stay-at-home order had taken effect. Welch responded that he would be honored for her to do so, and even offered to allow those students to interview him.

That experience was the silver lining of the pandemic for Schaeffer and her students. Since that time, Welch has graciously offered to meet and be interviewed by each of Schaeffer’s 6th grade classes.

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