Our Heroes


Photos by Patti Donnelly

Each year we begin a journey of connection, reflection, and heartfelt moments. What I love most about teaching Language Arts to 6th graders is learning with them. A close second is how we can experience reading, writing, speaking, technology, and creativity every single day. Our Hero project is all of that and more.

We return from winter break and begin thinking about a hero. It has to be someone we know and value in our life. As we are brainstorming heroic traits and interview questions, the handmade book making process begins with local artist, Peg Gignoux. The first session is a collaborative effort to paint and pattern as much paper as possible.



Folding a big, white piece of paper is harder than it seems. There are several steps involving some technical spatial skills.


Piece by piece, we trust that the from layering random colors, a work of art will emerge. There is no prototype to copy or pencils to sketch. There are scissors, glue, and our memory of a meaningful moment with our hero.





Now we have to decide how to cut the portal to our heroic scene.



Peg giving her sage advice

The last step is attaching the front and back cover and gluing in the story.





Once the books were dry and pressed, Peg displayed them at FRANK Gallery in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As if the experience wasn’t exciting enough at this point, last Wednesday we came together as a community to share our stories at the gallery. Many heroes walked in not knowing they were the one being honored. Emotions were high and smiles broad.



Sister honoring brother


Daughter honoring mother


Son honoring dad


Friends sharing a forever moment


Moments of pure joy!


Thank you Peg! You are our hero!

My Hero by Charlie

Here is my Hero Writing! Enjoy!

My Hero

John was born on November 6, 1995 at the Durham Regional Hospital, in Durham, North Carolina. He was a little, blond boy with dark, gray blue eyes. When he was three he got a sibling, a little girl named Margaret, who had bright orange hair and dark gray eyes. When he was seven he got another sibling, a little boy named Charles, who had bright, hazel-blue eyes and white-blond hair. He grew up being the oldest of three, having to set the example. He became older, knowing the decisions he made would affect his younger siblings forever. He is a great person, and my sister and I agree, an excellent role model. He has had an impact on every decision I have made in my life so far.

My brother and I had arrived at the Lake Mickie Camp Out about five hours ago, and it was pretty dark. The sky was a deep, navy blue. Three hours earlier, the parents started a campfire, and gave fire duty to a boy named Zach. Of course, he disappeared, and the fire went out. My brother, John, volunteered to start the new fire, and he asked me if I wanted to learn how to start a fire. He showed me how to strip long slivers of wood from an oak log to create tinder with my knife. He then created a teepee out of branches with a gap in the front. After that, he put about ten pieces of tender in gap in the front of the teepee, and created a nest with them. Next, he asked me to light a match, and put it in the tinder nest. The match caught the tender on fire, and he started to feed some little sticks until fire got larger and larger. Finally, the teepee caught! Then he added a log, and when the log caught, we were done. The fire flickered a deep orange. I admire my brother for this because he helped other people without complaining about having to do so. He was helpful to me and the adults by starting the fire and keeping it going.

My brother, all the while making the fire, listened to my questions and answered the endless, flowing, babbling, rambling line of them. He was patient and friendly with me, even when I nicked my finger with a knife, and started freaking out. For my sake, it was bleeding a lot, at least for a nicked finger. He showed patience in answering all my questions, and not getting annoyed by them. I admire him for this.

One day, my brother and I were on a campout at the Lake Mickie Campsite, sitting around the fire we were trying to start, and suddenly he told me to move. I sidestepped and a dark snake lunged past me into the fire pit. He told me to get Jim, the scoutmaster, and bring him over. When Jim got there, he grabbed the black snake from behind its head and flung it into the woods. I admire my brother for being smart enough to know who to call and calling for him instantly.

My brother has had such a large impact on my life that words can barely describe. My brother has shaped my morals, increased my knowledge, and improved my arguing skills. John helps me think before I act. He shows me how to do things a better way, and he ignores people who are mean to him. He helps other people to make friends, so when he needs help, that person will help him. He has helped me many times with: homework, work, cooking, sports, camping, scouting, and games. He changes all his friends so they are nicer and happier. He even helps his enemies by humbling them. I admire John because he has the willpower of an elephant, and the humor of a hyena. He helps all those around him, and helps even more when he can. Without my brother, I would not be the boy I am today. I am thankful that he is always there for me, guiding me through hard decisions. He is my hero.

Hero by Vasili C.

Photo by Mrs. Donnelly

I think that the best part about making my hero book was cutting and pasting the pieces of paper to make the background. I think that this experience was great and a good use of time. It felt great to have one thing of mine in a gallery. My hero said that this was very nice and thoughtful.


Hero Books by Joanna

We just finished making a book and writing about our heroes. Our heroes are people in our lives who have a big impact on our life. My hero is my brother. He is kind and extremely smart. We started making our hero books with figuring out our hero. Then we got all of our information about them and started thinking about which moment with our hero we were going to depict in our book. Finally, Mrs. Gignoux came to help us with making the actual hero book during one period of Language Arts, while in the other period we wrote about our hero over several days. Then when we were finished with our books and our writing, we pasted the story into the book. Yay! Our books were finally done and ready to be put in the Frank Gallery in Chapel Hill, North Carolina!

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My Hero by Batu

Here is my Hero righting. I hope you enjoy.

My hero is my grandfather, Özcan Canata. He was born on April 5, 1935. He grew up in Turkey during WW2. During the night they had to cover their windows and turn the lights out so the enemy could not bomb the houses. He was not allowed to play outside and he did not have many friends back then. When he was twelve, he went to boarding school for middle school and high school. The war was over by then, and there he made a lot of good friends who he still meets with today. When he grew up he became a physician. He worked as a military doctor in Turkey for a year, and then worked in several hospitals in Germany. Soon afterwards he opened a doctor’s office. He worked there until he retired in 1998. He returned to Turkey and decided to have a farm.

I always enjoy listening to my grandfather in a long car trip and hearing his stories. They are always funny and interesting. One of his funny stories is that he was on duty at the hospital, and this unconscious man with a burst eye brow was lifted to the hospital. Since the man was unconscious they did not need the anesthesia shot to numb him. When they were operating, the man’s face was twitching, and my grandfather thought that he was beginning to wake up so my grandfather began working faster. Then suddenly the man punched my grandfather and broke his nose, but the man was still unconscious. A few weeks later, that same man came and visited my grandfather and apologized for what had happened. The man was a boxer, and he said that if he feels pain he punches as a reflex. I find this story funny since this does not happen every day at a hospital where the doctor ends up as the patient.

On my hero’s farm, my hero keeps chickens as one of his hobbies, and he is very determined. One day my hero had received a couple of fertile chicken eggs from a friend that would hatch into a kind of chicken that my hero did not have. My hero had a chicken that was sitting on some fertile eggs, and put the eggs that he got under that chicken. A few weeks later all of the eggs hatched except the one that my hero added. Instead of giving the eggs back, my hero put them in his incubator, and in the incubator you have to rotate the eggs every 2­3 hours. When the eggs did hatch, my hero could not put the chicks with the other chickens because the chicks would starve without a mother, so he had to feed them by hand for a month. Afterwards the chicks could survive without a mother. My hero showed determination because instead of giving the eggs back, he took care of them by helping them hatch, and helping them grow up into healthy chickens.

My hero is very creative and unique with his hobbies; mainly painting. My hero made this very abstract painting of a vase of tulips. In the picture the vase of wilting yellow tulips is on a table against a black background. One of the wilting tulip’s color is dripping away slowly, and a skeleton of that flower is left. The color pours onto the table creating an ocean of yellow dye that is cascading over the table into a void. In the ocean there is a small man in a row boat, rowing across the ocean. My hero made this painting to remind us that nature is dying and falling apart, yet humans are still enjoying the moment and not caring about the nature that is around them.

My hero has changed how I look at problems. He has taught me that there is light in every shadow. For example, if I try out for a swim team, and I have practiced all year long, I might feel like I am ready when I decide to try out but fail. Instead of being really sad, I should cheer up now that I have learned that I am very bad at butterfly, and I should practice more on butterfly. I should try again next year for that same team, and if I fail again next year I should try again. This is one of the many things that my hero has taught me.

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Hero Project by David P

Earlier this month in Language Arts, we did something called the Hero Project. We wrote about someone who has changed our lives in a good way. I wrote about my grandfather. He survived the Holocaust when he was a little boy. My favorite part of the project was getting to write about and express my gratitude to my grandfather, Sam. It really made me feel good inside to be writing about him.

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Hero Project by Bella K.

In our LA class, each student chose a hero in his or her life. I chose my dad, which I kind of felt bad for my mom, because my sister ,who is in 8th grade, did my dad too when she was in 6th grade. Even if I didn’t get a chance to go to the reception, I had lots of fun doing the project. I saw how my art work was quickly forming to a colorful book. The scene took place in my house, with my dad dancing to the Gangnam Style, which is one of the three mini stories I have in my book. With the whole 6th grade’s masterpieces, many visitors to the Frank Gallery were amazed at our work! Good job everyone!

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Hero Project by Keenan W

Photo taken by Mrs. Donnelly

The hero project was one of my favorite things in 6th grade. I really enjoyed writing about my hero, my dad, and also creating the hero book. The hero books are kind of 3d, because they have a part of the book that pops out. After we created the shape of the book, we put a scene of our hero into the book. We then put our typed hero story onto the sides of the book. After we put everything in the book, the books were pressed and put into the Frank Gallery. I really enjoyed seeing all of the books payed out in the gallery because I could see how hard everybody worked on these books. All of the finished books looked really good when they were displayed!

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Hero Project by Jenny

Photo by Mrs. Donnelly

In the sixth grade language arts class we did a project on a person who is a big influence in our life, in other words our “hero”. My hero is my dad. During this project we had to create a handmade book with a cover and back cardboard made by our lovely guest appearance “Peg Gignoux” who included our work with hers in the Frank Gallery. During this making we painted sheets of paper with stamps, and cut them up and pasted them onto our book of our liking. We then typed up paragraphs talking about our hero’s life story and how they are important to us. Once those got printed, cut, and glued in our book, our books were soon enough on their way to the Frank Gallery on Franklin Street for public views.

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Hero Book by Neil M







This project we completed in Language Arts was great! My parents loved my story. Everyone’s story was about a hero that is in their life. My hero is my grandmother. She is a very loving, caring nanny. One thing that my hero did that was amazing, was leaving her life she loved so much to help take care of me when I was born. For the first four years of my life she lived with me. Even though she was very weak and close to death she handled it very strongly and helped make my early life fun!

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