“The Blue Heron,” Casco Bay High School’s student literary magazine, has been recognized as a 2023 REALM First Class magazine by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). REALM stands for Recognizing Excellence in Art and Literary Magazines, and is an NCTE program.
“The Blue Heron,” is the only student magazine in Maine to receive that top honor in the 2023 REALM contest. The CBHS publication also is one of just 105 student magazines nationwide to win the REALM First Class award in 2023, chosen from among 375 entries.
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.
“Congratulations to you and your students on this exceptional publication,” wrote NCTE Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick in a letter to CBHS English teacher Leslie Appelbaum, in announcing the award this month. “We commend you for inspiring a love of writing that your students will remember for the rest of their lives.”
“This is an exquisite magazine and a well-deserved honor,” said CBHS Principal Derek Pierce. “We are so proud of our writers, artists and editors.”
Appelbaum, the magazine’s faculty advisor, said, “Our student editors (Maggie Ellis, Mali Jones, and Finn Brydon, all class of 2023) worked hard to create a magazine that included diverse voices from grades 9-12, as well as diverse genres and exciting artwork. The magazine really is a reflection of the work students are doing across subjects and grade levels.”
“The Blue Heron” was started in 2017 by a sophomore student and is a yearly print publication. The name was inspired by the school’s Casco Bay name. One theory about the origin of the word “Casco” is that it evolved from “Aucocisco,” the Abenaki name for the bay, which means “place of herons.”
In keeping with the school’s inclusive values , the student magazine is an amalgam of all kinds of writing genres, including poetry, memoir, and short story as well as diverse artwork: photography, pen and ink, quilting, and sculpture. “We do our best to include work from freshmen through seniors and connect with teachers to showcase highlights of culminations,” Appelbaum said.
Mali Jones, last year’s editor, commented about her experience with the magazine: “It taught me to think about the ways in which different perspectives interplay, and how rewarding it is to make something that reflects the thoughts and feelings of so many individuals.”
Calla Stark, the magazine’s current editor, added, “The magazine supports budding writers and allows them a space where they feel comfortable sharing their work and creates a pathway to a larger audience.”
To view the state winners of the 2023 REALM contest and learn about the 2024 REALM contest, which will run from early May to July 31, 2024, go to: https://ncte.org/awards/program-to-recognize-in-student-literary-magazines/
Photos: Examples of cover art from The Blue Heron show the quality of this award-winning magazine.
The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is devoted to improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education and is the nation’s oldest organization of pre-K through graduate school literacy educators.
The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with more than 6,600 students, and it’s also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of 53 languages. Approximately 48 percent of the district’s students are white and 52 percent are students of color. Nearly half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.