GT Spotlight: This Year’s Yearbook Staff Takes On 2020

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Mrs. Burgin works on the cover of the 2020-2021 yearbook, titled “Don’t Blink”

Melinda Reed, Editor-in-Chief

The purpose of early yearbooks was two-fold: to provide pictures of the people, activities, and events that populate the high school experience, and to provide names to go with those pictures. Since then, however, the yearbook has developed into more. Part journalism, part graphic design, and part nostalgic trip down memory lane, the yearbook is now an art form. Instead of just recording the events of the year, it attempts to capture an era within a few hundred pages. 

Needless to say, this takes a lot of time and energy. Mrs. Burgin, head of Morris Hills’s yearbook The Torch, is now in her tenth year of running the production and distribution of the book. With her is Alexandra Manansala, Hills senior, Gifted and Talented student, and this year’s student advisor for the publication. This is Manansala’s third year on the staff— after taking both Yearbook I and II, she decided to use Morris Hills’s Gifted and Talented program to continue to pursue her passion.

The pandemic and resulting hybrid schedule has greatly limited the amount of time the staff can work on the layout and spreads. For Mrs. Burgin and Manansala, this means much of the work has to be done on their own time.

Still, the final product makes it all worth it. “With me it’s seeing the end result and flipping through the pages, and [saying] ‘Wow. We really did this,’ ” says Manansala. 

Mrs. Burgin agrees, and adds that from a teacher’s perspective, a lot of joy comes from holding physical evidence of the collaborative efforts of the students in her yearbook class. “I love seeing the end product and seeing everyone’s hard work and effort put into it,” she says. “The creativity from the students in the class is amazing.”

This year, due to the uncertainty of some school events, the staff is relying more than ever on help from the students of Morris Hills in creating the yearbook. The main contribution most teens can make is by sharing pictures, which is why the yearbook staff has started weekly photo challenges. “Share with us!” Mrs. Burgin says. “That’s how we are going to be able to put together this book and represent everybody, not just the athletes, not just the people who are in theater or clubs.”

Help make this yearbook— which is following three years of award-winning work by Mrs. Burgin and her staff— a true reflection of what it is like to be at Morris Hills right now. “Every book, every year, looks so different,” Mrs. Burgin says. With the pandemic, hybrid schedule, and regular chaos of everyday life, her words are sure to ring true when the book is released in June 2021.