VALRICO, Florida -- Many of the students at Mulrennan Middle School were just toddlers when the tragic events of 9/11 occurred.
"The next generation growing up is not going to remember the actual event having occurred," 8th grade Language Arts teacher Jeanne Harper. "So it's very, very important that we never forget."
That's why she has been developing a lesson plan to teach them about the importance of 9/11 through graphics novels, and one created by DC Comics in particular. When a fellow teacher introduced the idea to her a couple years ago, she thought the approach might be disrespectful. She's since found the images and themes to be powerful, and a compelling way to teach students who were very young 11 years ago.
"I think it makes an impact on them when they see that. It's not the gory stuff. It's not the horrible stuff. It's the heartwrenching, touching stuff," Harper says.
In each of her classes, she combines the intrigue of graphic novels with the question of what makes up a hero. First, the students discuss what they think qualifies someone to be a hero. Then, they read excerpts of the graphic novels to see whether the storylines change their minds. Eventually, they will design their own graphic novels, having learned even more about heroism.
But this lesson is an especially difficult one for Harper to teach. Eleven years ago, she was a teacher just outside New York City.
"We lost 12 members of my church," she recalls. "The students at the high school I was teaching at - five of them lost parents. One of them lost both."
So she hopes to pass the importance of heroism onto her students, so even if they don't fully recall what happened on 9/11, they know about the bravery of people who risked their lives.
"Everyday people can become heroes," says 8th grader Bryce Jimenez, who says he learned a lot from Harper's class. "You don't have to be a superhero or a secret agent, you can just be a regular person and become a hero."