Dianne Danz, the librarian at Nottingham School, has been working with students in Oxford for the past 22 years, and her experience outside of Oxford goes beyond even that. Before her retirement at the end of this past school year she had one final thing to do before she said goodbye to the students of Nottingham School. Danz wanted to create an example of the cooperation between loving homes and nurturing schools.
To do this Danz pieced together "Nottingham's Book of Heroes 2006," a catalog of students' own experiences in which they give examples of people they have known and respected their entire lives. Nottingham School then published the book and distributed it to every student who participated in its production, as well as his or her homeroom teacher.
Nearly 320 students wrote brief stories on who there hero is and why, and many drew illustrations of their heroes, which were then placed alongside their story. Each student who cared enough to write about those that they respect had their writings published alongside their name and that of their homeroom teacher.
"Anyone who reads the stories they wrote will see that the boys and girls who cared enough to say thank you to the people they love are well on their way to being heroes themselves," said Danz.
This project is something that Danz took upon herself to undertake every few years. It is an extensive process but one that she says produces worthwhile results. The students' participation was also on a volunteer basis.
"Some students are getting their book autographed, so it's a joyful occasion," said Danz, as she explained that prior to the end of the school year the students just completed talking about kids and their role in history. "Now they've become a part of history themselves. There's no better way to be remembered than to have your words immortalized in a book."
Inside the book, stories are found describing parents, friends, classmates, teachers and historical leaders. From Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, to a slew of mothers and fathers, the students of Nottingham School were not shy as to whom their heroes are and why.
"When I gave the students an opportunity to select their own heroes, I was touched, but not surprised, that many of them picked people in their own families," said Danz in the book's introduction.
To help students pick their hero, each was given a checklist of characteristics to aid in the recognition of heroes. The checklist described various attributes such as bravery, kindness, faithfulness, unselfishness and intelligence. It also outlined actions heroes are often found doing such as setting goals, helping others and making sacrifices. Using the checklists students listened to stories of people who fit into those categories and even discussed the idea that they all can practice being heroes in their day-to-day lives.
For Danz this book isn't just a collection of touching stories it is an example of what public schools really are.
"Public schools have been under the gun for the past few years for a number of reasons," said Danz. "In the 40 years of my career, I have seen teachers move from a role of respect and honor to one where blame and oppositions face them everywhere they look. If there is a problem with children, from discipline to eating habits, it is laid at the foot of the public schools."
To her, that is not the way to view teachers in public schools, especially in places such as Oxford.
"The teachers I have know are hard working, caring, concerned and intelligent," said Danz. "Their students are taught not only the information they all need to pass the standardized tests, but they are taught about consideration, thoughtfulness, gratitude affection and kindness."
This book is a reflection of those teachings, according to Danz. "Oxford students have proved themselves to be special once again, and I'll miss them a lot," said Danz. "This effort has been a good way for me to say goodbye."