AHS student literacy magazine on pandemic wins national award

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Amsterdam High School’s special project literacy magazine documenting the personal insights of students living in a COVID-19 pandemic has won a national award of excellence.

“Pandemic Panorama: From the Inside Out” has captured a 2021 REALM Award from the National Council of Teachers of English. REALM stands for Recognizing Excellence in Art and Literacy Magazines. The 2021 results were announced via email on January 31, 2022.

The REALM program publicly recognizes excellent literary magazines produced by students with the support of their teachers. REALM is designed to encourage all schools to develop literary magazines that celebrate the art and craft of writing.

Amsterdam High School students designed and produced the magazine last school year under the guidance of faculty editors/teachers Kelly Peugh-Forte, Jessica Lewandowski, Karen Garrison, Lisa Albert, Mary Kochan  and Lisa Liverio. Student editors were Ani Bogran, Amaliarys Mora Sanabria, and Ryleigh Phillips.

“Completing the anthology was a huge achievement for me and my colleagues; achieving national recognition is icing on the cake,” Peugh-Forte said. “We are so proud of how we were able to create such a sophisticated magazine – our first attempt, in fact – during unprecedented circumstances, with limited resources. It’s a true testament to the power of meaningful collaboration.”

The AHS magazine was sponsored by the Historic Amsterdam League. Magazine producers were featured locally last April with stories in the Amsterdam Recorder/Daily Gazette newspapers and on WRGB Channel 6 news.

Amsterdam High School project both a catharsis and historical record


“From all of us at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), congratulations to you and your students on this exceptional publication,” said NCTA Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick. “We commend you for inspiring a love of writing that your students will remember for the rest of their lives.”

The REALM literary magazine program is open to all middle and secondary schools, as well as colleges and universities, throughout the United States, Canada, Virgin Islands, and American schools abroad.

There was a total of 209 school publication entries in 2021. Magazines were scored by national judges.

Results are announced in January and posted on the NCTE website. Schools receive a certificate denoting their award, which is sent to the advisor of the school’s literary magazine. In addition, the names of the student editors, literary advisor, and school appear on the NCTE website.

More about ‘Pandemic Panorama: From the Inside Out’

Using words and art, the AHS literacy magazine documented for posterity students’ feelings of spending their years in high school switching between remote and in-person instruction, constantly wearing masks and being separated from the normal patterns of school and social life.

Through a mix of free verse, structured poems, short narratives, song lists, self-portraits, and still-life sketches composed of masks, bottles of hand sanitizer and toilet paper, students express a set of deeply polar emotions and feelings: sadness, loss, fear, isolation, frustration, confusion, but also hope, self-discovery, historic importance, independence and excitement. The poems and portraits also capture the momentous racial justice protests and divisive political culture of the year.

The project captured the emotions of students as they grappled with the historic fallout of a pandemic in a document that now serves as a historical record of those student experiences. Each page of the anthology included a mix of written work and artistic expression. Many pages include dated facts that give a running timeline of how the pandemic unfolded. More than 60 entries encapsulate the student experiences.

Money raised from the sale of the magazine funded a 2021 scholarship that supported a AHS senior who spent the entirety of the year learning remotely but persevered nonetheless.

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