Just one day after comic genius Stan Lee, Eric Kallenborn died tweaking his English classes syllabi to celebrate the man who was often called superhero superheroes.
Lee, legend of the publisher of Marvel Comics, died Monday at the age of 95. On Tuesday, students at Alan B. Shepard High School in Palos Heights began celebrating the literary master by digging into the work of their lives.
Kallenborn is a long-standing believer in graphic novels and series that can engage reluctant readers and stimulate conversation among all readers.
Not only are series and the graphic novels inspired by them a fun medium for upper secondary schools, Kallenborn says. The characters Lee created are especially engaging because they address social problems, making them more relatable and good discussion topics.
The graphic format, he says, inspires literary conversation about tone, character development and artistic layout.
And the world has Lee to thank too much of it, he said.
"Stan Lee was a brilliant man who helped create more than 300 characters using the team (at Marvel)," said Kallenborn.
Among them, Spider Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Black Panther, Ant Man, Thor and Iron Man.
Kallenborn said that his English classes were set to start a new unit on November 13 anyway.
"But then I was like," Oh, Stan Lee died. "So I changed things," he said.
His graphic novels began to read "Miles Morales", about a new bi-racial Spider Man. His movie class would look at "Black Panther". And his creative writing students worked on their own hero-driven novel.
All the children, he said, would investigate social issues, much like Lee did.
"Some think girls' books are just children's stuff. Some think comic books are just comic books," says Kallenborn. "But the real fans get" get it. "
They know that every super hero has a foot planted in the real world, he said. Every struggle with its own humanity.
Questions about discrimination, hope, pride, ego, race and acceptance are all addressed by Lee's characters, Kallenborn said.
"X-Men" is about diversity and discrimination. The X-Men mutants looked down on. People wanted an anti-mutant world, "he said. That story, he added, was a way for Lee and Marvel to address the issue of diversity in print without being a race / color issue.
"I think it was amazing," he said.
"When" The Fantastic Four "came out, people asked if the language was too mature, too hard for children," said Kallenborn. "Stan Lee said" I'm not trying to write books. I'm trying to teach young something and if their vocabulary gets better from comics, more power to them. ""
Kallenborn has promoted comic books and graphic novels as a reading tool for several years.
Anthony Corsi, the English-language learning planner in District 218, said: "Eric was the great power behind the creation and adoption of the 218 Graphic Romance course – all in service to give students a wider range of literature beyond the rather dense Restrictions of a Traditional English Class. He has used the classic classical classic as a vehicle for increased participation, promotion of independent reading and differentiation instruction based on student interests. "
Corsi said that Kallenborn has also used the class to introduce students to professionals in the series comics and to attend conferences and panels.
"Stan Lee was a tireless advocate for series as a legitimate storytelling medium, and Eric has been a tireless master of series of students, parents and administrators," said Corsi. "We are very lucky to have him."
Kallenborn has featured many times on Comic-Cons and said he belongs to a group that brings together the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) program. He brings together a panel of students to talk about his experience in his class for the upcoming expo in March.
Last year, Kallenborn said he read 365 graphic novels in 365 days and blogged about them.
He is aware that not all English teachers are on the same page when it comes to reading graphical versions of classics such as "Les Miserables" or "Sense and Sensibility."
"I know of a few school districts whose teachers still refuse to use series or graphic novels in the classroom at all," he said. "I think it's a big disadvantage for those students."
When confronted with doubts, he said, "I ask them what they are and then give them a (graphically illustrated) book to read and say," Please read this and let me know if it does not change you "" he said.
"I've changed many people's minds just by giving them the right graphic novel."
Ashley Rose was one of them.
Shepard senior said, "I'm not big on series. I've just seen one of the Marvel movies. So this is something new to me because I never picked up a comedian for this class."
"It has been very interesting. The books make the reader more fun," says Palos Heights's teenager.
Still, she had no idea who Stan Lee was until Kallenborn told the class about his passing.
Although Lee had been out of creation for some time, he made comedy in Marvel movies and cartoon autographs on Comic-Cons, which was where Kallenborn met him five years ago.
"I've thought of everything I've ever read and owned, video games I've played, which came from the original creators. It's kind of overwhelming the social impact he had," said Kallenborn. "It will take his passport to many people to really understand what he meant.
"His ability to create characters that had great powers, but also humanity, is what led to the reader's interest and imagination," said Kallenborn.
As a child, Kallenborn said he read the series.
"But I did not come back to them until later," he said.
As a teacher, he started using a few graphic novels to teach "Hamlet" and "Beowulf", both difficult readers.
The media said he helped with understanding and meaning.
Now he uses all kinds of graphic books, including the Manga series of Udon, which is not entirely related to the help, he said.
"To create this class and use this medium, it has been fantastic," he said.
"I read so much that if you tell me what you are in, I can give you a book you're guaranteed to love," he said. "Being able to recommend graphic novels to humans is one of my superpowers right now."
If he could choose another?