Chapel Hill News

Former teacher teams up with ECHHS student on book

From left, author and former teacher Shannon Moore Fitzgerald talks with artist Danielle Natalie Losos about their collaboration on the self-published book “Test Day, Team Player.” Fitzgerald and Losos, a rising senior at East Chapel Hill High School, hope Fitzgerald’s technique outlined in the book will ease the stress of test-taking for students and teachers.
From left, author and former teacher Shannon Moore Fitzgerald talks with artist Danielle Natalie Losos about their collaboration on the self-published book “Test Day, Team Player.” Fitzgerald and Losos, a rising senior at East Chapel Hill High School, hope Fitzgerald’s technique outlined in the book will ease the stress of test-taking for students and teachers. tgrubb@newsobserver.com

The pressure on students to take more tests doesn’t have to saddle them with high anxiety, a local author and her teen illustrator say.

“Test Day, Team Player,” their new, self-published book, encourages teachers to build team support among their students to achieve better results.

Testing now pushes students to reach higher levels at an earlier age, while eating up valuable teaching hours, Hillsborough author Shannon Moore Fitzgerald said.

“I don’t know any teacher worth their salt, who can’t tell you from a student’s classwork and their projects exactly what they know and exactly what they need to work on,” she said.

She’s not sure how many teachers have read the book, Fitzgerald said, but Pathways Elementary School bought several copies and friends who still teach told her they used the lessons this year. The book is being sold through Amazon and at Purple Crow Books in Hillsborough.

The story follows a young student, who, like many of her classmates, is nervous about taking her first end-of-year test. Her teacher suggests the students think of themselves as a team and wear the same color shirts on test day, just like a team, she says.

“Well, teammates don’t actually help a batter hit the ball,” the main character thinks to herself, “but the batter knows his team is rooting for him.”

The class shows up the next day excited, instead of nervous; “I was sure we were each going to do great!” the main character says.

Fitzgerald said she got a similar reaction from her ESL and exceptional students when she tried the technique at New Hope Elementary.

“All three days, they were so happy, and they were so excited, and they did really, really well on their tests, better than predicted,” she said.

She continued to use it, taking it with her when she moved to Morris Grove Elementary. She has since left the classroom, but friends who also work in education urged her to publish her discovery, she said.

She met the book’s illustrator, Danielle Natalie Losos, through her husband Nick Fitzgerald, who taught calculus to Losos at East Chapel Hill High School and had seen her artwork.

Losos, a rising senior, said she definitely relates to testing-day jitters. The pressure to get in a good college prompted her to take the SAT and ACT tests for college-bound students three times each, on top of the many other tests.

It can be an unreasonable amount of stress, Losos said.

“I had so many tests this year, because you factor all those into my A.P. tests ... and at the end of the year, I had a final in every class, even though I took the A.P. test a month ago for every single one of those classes,” she said. “Many days of the week, I had a test in five different periods, because teachers were constantly testing.”

She was excited about the book, Losos said, working at school and on weekends for three months to create nearly two dozen illustrations.

Her sister, Emily, and her sister’s friends served as character models, Losos said, and she played with body shapes and sizes, and perspective. Fitzgerald only asked that she create a diverse cast of students, she said.

“I thought that’s a really great idea, of course, especially to reflect Chapel Hill’s population, where the students you meet in your class come from every corner of the Earth,” Losos said.

She brought most to life in watercolor pencil, she said, giving them faces to match their names.

The art was engaging and interesting, Fitzgerald said, impressing her with its maturity and its vision of the story.

“The first time we met, after she’d done some work, and I saw her work,” she said, “it really brought tears to my eyes.”

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

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