A funny thing happened to Jean Leverich this week as she walked into 826michigan for the field trip: she started pondering the depths of Dr. Blotch’s complex psyche. She thought: Although Dr. Blotch often misplaces their diary during our Strange Mysteries! field trip, is there something else of equal or greater value that our curmudgeonly editor might fret about losing? The answer came to her — obviously, a robot! And wouldn’t it be interesting if Dr. Blotch showed a softer side, by admitting their devotion to this particular bot? When she got to 826, Jean admitted that Dr. Blotch had consumed her morning thoughts, and as a group we discussed this possible new plot twist to our regular field trip outline. With some teamwork and brainstorming, a perfect addition to our strange mystery was created, one in which Dr. Blotch’s beloved lullaby-singing golden robot Lucy had been stolen (and our students were charged with finding the bot!). This kind of teamwork is characteristic of Jean and our intrepid field trip crew, who make magic happen multiple mornings a week on Liberty Street.
At 9:30am on Wednesday and Friday mornings, we look forward to the moment our front door opens and Jean walks into our writing lab. Although we are used to seeing her now (Jean has volunteered at 25 field trips this semester — that’s nearly every single field trip on Liberty Street in 2017), our delight never wanes when she arrives. She greets the staff and other volunteers by name, welcoming newbies and asking thoughtful questions, and jumping into any and every task we need to complete in order to run a fantastic field trip. Thanks to Jean and our crew, we’ve served over one thousand students so far this year, most of whom have had the pleasure to work with Jean.
In addition to working one-on-one with students on their writing during field trips, Jean has been flexible and energetic, jumping into any role in the program, whether it is making nametags, assembling case files, typing stories for large or small groups of students to see their work on the page, playing a suspicious suspect during our Strange Mysteries! productions, or assisting the ever demanding and unappeasable Dr. Blotch. She has donned PJs during PJ DAY, led table-reads during our Screenwriting field trip, acted out the plight of orphaned otters during our STEM & Writing field trip, and navigated our students through time travel, space travel, and unicorn travel during Choose Your Own Adventure writing field trips.
Jean’s thoughtfulness when it comes to our programs shines through in all of her interactions with 826michigan. She has volunteered to come in extra days to help finish typing student work from our field trips program and other programs for publication, and she is always eager to discuss the successes and challenges of a session with other volunteers and staff after each field trip. She made the brilliant comparison between collaborative writing and improv, helping students to cooperate and build off of each other’s ideas by applying the “Yes and” principle to storytelling (So, the teenager was in love with a coconut AND spies were chasing them through a shopping mall. . .). Jean brings her many talents for writing and performing to field trips each week, embodying any character she takes on with panache and passion (and great costumes!) and asking enthusiastic questions of our student writers. Recently, Jean doubled as Edna, a nosy documentary filmmaker trying to learn Dr. Blotch’s secrets complete with a rainbow blouse, rhinestone-studded sunglasses, and a fantastic blonde wig. Very suspicious indeed!
We are so lucky to have Jean’s magic in the writing lab during field trips — keep thinking up the next Dr. Blotch conundrum, Jean, and thank you for joining the crew with your whole heart AND steering our program to new, hilarious, and adventurous places.