Column by English teacher John Gonczy

Looking back as we look forward 

by John J. Gonczy, CJE, Marist High School English Teacher and Sentinel moderator


Gonczy_at_IPABy April 1, 2020, it became apparent to me (and many of us) that school would not resume any time soon, leaving many to wonder:  what about getting a newspaper done during virtual learning?

I drew upon my experience years ago in high school and community theater, where the golden rule remains that no matter what, the show must go on.

So, my newspaper staff and I met on Zoom.   Emails and text messages began to fly.  We brainstormed.  We assigned stories.  The kids forged ahead with their reporting, writing and editing and, somehow, we managed to get eight pages done between April and the end of the school year.

As I write this, we have just finished our first month at Marist, teaching remotely on Mondays and then in person four days a week, though our classes have been split to keep the number of students in the building down on any given day.  It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least.   There have been days that ended with my feeling tremendous satisfaction and other days that ended with my feeling even less certain of myself than when I was a student teacher 26 years ago.

So, in preparation for writing this column, I revisited those eight pages we did last spring and was struck by the words of then junior Matt Warakomski in his piece “When This is All Over.”  Matt wrote:

We cannot forget how this pandemic is an experiment in how we learn to connect and

remain human in times of extreme trouble and fear. We have fallen on hard and

anxious times. After this is over, we must remember to stay connected and never

forget what it means to be human.


Looking back on last spring, it’s all a blur and I really don’t know how those kids managed to get those pages done.  

I don’t need to know. 

The fact that they did, and that kids like Matt were able to articulate such sincere thoughts and feelings, gives me a tremendous sense of hope as we continue to deal with this pandemic and as 2020 turns into 2021.

I’ll bet my next paycheck that many of my colleagues in high school media feel the same way, having experienced the same wonders from their own students. 

This year, it is so important that we continue to let the kids’ voices be heard.  They are speaking to all of us and their stories will become a most poignant part of our history.  Indeed, the show must go on.  Rest assured that IJEA remains ready to assist you. 

Stay safe and healthy, everyone, and remember…we are all doing our best!

This column was originally published in a newsletter for the Illinois Journalism Education Association, of which Mr. Gonczy is the president.