Each month in the magazine I work for we run a short essay under the heading of “First Person.” Sometimes it’s a reflection by the writer on one of our major stories, or it might be a rumination on some timely topic of the day. Kathleen wrote about her 6-year-old son’s school cafeteria choices to accompany her cover story about school nutrition.

Since the June issue is my last, my editor suggested that I write a little farewell essay. (I’m proud to say her only edit was the addition of a single comma.) The front matter of the magazine isn’t included in our online version, so here it is: my farewell in 300 words or less, with its accompanying photo…

standing there cotton field


You probably haven’t read my name in this magazine before, unless you happened to see it in 7-point type as an occasional photo credit. But as art director and production manager, I’ve had a hand in the look and style of each page of ASBJ you’ve read for nearly two decades. That will be changing next month as I leave the world of publishing and prepare to join the Mississippi Teacher Corps, where I will teach English in a critical-needs high school in the Mississippi Delta.

I know the work I’ve done here has helped school districts in many ways, but I know, too, that policy alone cannot reach far enough into the deepest pockets of poverty and inequality so many rural and Southern school systems face. I’ve had the chance to spend a lot of time in all sorts of schools as I’ve traveled with ASBJ’s writers to photograph their stories. From an adult-education initiative in Pointe Coupee, La., to an ESL program for migrant children in Indio, Calif., or a “last chance” high school in Southside Boston, I’ve spoken with and documented the efforts of teachers in dozens of schools where they struggle every day to make a difference in the lives of the children most often forgotten or discounted.

One of worst forms of prejudice that threatens impoverished students is that of those in power who simply throw up their hands in defeat against what they believe is an unsolvable institutionalized problem. And it is, in fact, unsolvable from afar. But from within, and through the efforts of everyday educators, change can happen.

I won’t change the world … but one of my students just might.

Michele Sabatier,
Art Director and Production Manager