Finding History through Own Roots Elgin Teacher Has Students, Families Write Autobiographies

By Mask, Teresa | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 1, 1997 | Go to article overview

Finding History through Own Roots Elgin Teacher Has Students, Families Write Autobiographies


Mask, Teresa, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Teresa Mask Daily Herald Staff Writer

Carole Pedo's eighth-grade English class has a descendant of President James P. Polk and three people related to Al Capone.

One student's grandfather was a pilot for President John F. Kennedy. His great-grandfather played baseball with Lou Gehrig.

Forget U.S. history class. Students at Kimball Middle School in Elgin need only talk to each other to get a wealth of interesting information.

The students learned these interesting tidbits through an assignment Pedo has given to students for 23 years - to research and write their autobiographies, including a good dose of family history.

The project takes six weeks and in the end the teenagers turn in a beautifully written four-chapter autobiography, complete with pictures, a dedication page and custom-made cover. And in the end, some have an even closer relationship with their parents.

That's one of the reasons the project is so special, Pedo said. Her assignment is one of the few in which the middle school students seek help from mom and dad.

For some families, researching the project really turned into quality family time, which is difficult to come by in the fast-paced life of parents and students.

With students busy participating in afterschool sports, hanging out with friends and working part-time jobs, who has time to talk?

They rush in and out of the house, barely staying long enough to have dinner with parents, who often both have just returned from an exhausting day of work.

Sitting down for a family conversation in some households actually can require an appointment.

But when it came time to get information for the reports, parents were ready and willing.

"It was a lot of fun for me," said Fran McGowan, whose son, Matt, is in Pedo's class. …

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