Central teacher helps Diablo crew chronicle unusual times

Compiling a high school yearbook against a backdrop of limited in-person instruction and extracurricular activities thanks to a pandemic takes some artfulness, to say the least.

Erin Palmer, Hinsdale Central teacher and advisor of its yearbook, The Diablo, said the staff has risen to the challenge.

"We had to rethink how we do yearbook this year. We had to rethink the process and revamp the curriculum in many ways," Palmer said. "It took a great deal of time and thought to see how we could actually make this doable and enjoyable at the same time."

Thankfully the 2019-20 edition was near completion when the school was shut down last March. But it did allow staff members to develop a comfort level with weekly Zoom meetings and reaching out to students in a remote learning environment.

"I think it gave a preview for this year. We were able to anticipate how things would go," related Palmer, who has been the lead yearbook advisor for 11 years.

The content has pivoted from the standard chronological flow to, say, stories about how masks have become part of one's style profile and the world of video gaming.

"We've tried to capture topics and ideas rather than the (traditional) requirements," Palmer said, adding the resurgence in disposable camera use as another vignette. "There are these little niche interests. I think they're unearthing stories that we didn't notice before."

Palmer said The Diablo's publishing company featured its spreads, including ones on sustainable fashion and PE classes in the remote environment, as part of a webinar.

"My staff is incredibly thoughtful and hard-working, They're really helpful to one another," she said.

Palmer stressed that the yearbook's evolution is student-led and that she relishes seeing it take shape over the course of the year.

"I just love working with them on this massive endeavor and to have that kind that life experience in the work environment," she said, noting that some of those relationships span from sophomore year to graduation.

The English instructor delights in empowering voices in her classes, as well.

"I enjoy hearing what students have to say and what they're thinking - and what they want to do about it," she remarked. "It's so wonderful to see students grow as writers, readers and as people."

Personally, she looks forward to the world opening up again for travel.

"I can't wait to travel with my family. I'd love to take my daughters to Iceland and let them see that such a different world can exist," Palmer said.

Whether the yearbook staff will be able to gather by the end of year is unknown. She does know they are producing a keepsake that will be treasured for generations. And that great things lie ahead.

"It's really cool to see where they go and what they end up doing - and what they remember."

- story by Ken Knutson,

photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean