“She’s my best reporter,” Angie Jameson, Chagrin Falls Middle School newspaper adviser, said. The “best reporter” in question is eighth-grader Maggie Koehler.
Maggie, 15, of Chagrin Falls, is a student reporter with down syndrome who runs her own weekly video segment, “Mondays with Maggie,” for the school paper.
“Our middle school newspaper is called Tiger Tales,” Mrs. Jameson said, who is also the library media specialist and book club adviser. She said Maggie’s teachers thought it would be a good idea for her to get involved with the school newspaper to give her the opportunity to step out of her comfort zone and spend more time with her peers.
“[Maggie’s] teacher aide, Greta Insolia, thought it would be fun to spend recess with some friends in Newspaper Club,” Mrs. Jameson explained. “After her first video interview, she really liked it and we wanted to do more.”
So far, Maggie has conducted 25 video interviews as a student reporter, 23 of which were for her Mondays with Maggie segment. In her videos, Maggie interviews fellow students, teachers and staff and other school officials, from students of the month to Superintendent Robert Hunt.
Mrs. Jameson explained that she works closely with Maggie to set up the interviews and determine who the next interviewees will be for the weekly segment. She said she helps Maggie practice the questions ahead of time to get comfortable and build up her confidence with taking the lead on camera.
This is Maggie’s first year as a Tiger Tales reporter, and Mrs. Jameson said plans are in the works for Maggie to continue her student reporting career once she enters high school next year.
Mrs. Jameson explained that she would continue to mentor Maggie and help her through her high school experience if she wishes to continue Mondays with Maggie.
Maggie’s mother, Michelle Koehler, said teachers believed that being a student reporter would also help with her daughter with speech as she conducts interviews. The Mondays with Maggie sessions have helped build confidence and give her more opportunities for social interaction, Mrs. Koehler added.
“Once she gets comfortable, she really does love it and gets excited,” she said. “Truly, the school has to be commended, from our perspective as the parents, for really trying to come up with some innovative and creative ways to keep her involved with peers and do something fun. It’s been fabulous.”
When asked what she likes about being a reporter, Maggie said, “I like to talk to my friends,” adding that she also enjoys interviewing her teachers and especially looks forward to asking interviewees what their favorite songs are.
Mrs. Koehler said that Maggie has been involved with a lot of theater, as well, having participated in about eight or nine plays and musicals. She added that Maggie loves music, which shines through in her interviews as she concludes each segment with asking what her guests to name their favorite song.
Maggie said some of her own favorite songs include “Show Yourself” from Disney’s Frozen II and “The Bones” by Maren Morris. Mrs. Koehler added that Maggie has also been a fan of artists like Maroon 5, Katie Perry and Taylor Swift. “And Harry Styles,” Maggie chimed in.
Mrs. Koehler said that by participating in this, Maggie also helps build confidence in her peers to step out of their comfort zones, too.
“Her special needs are a big part of this for us,” Mrs. Koehler said. “The fact that she’s included and she’s somebody with special needs and is able to do this, it encourages her other peers with special needs and [other students] in her classes to maybe want to try some things.”
And while schools have been closed for the COVID-19 outbreak, that didn’t stop Mondays with Maggie from continuing.
“The week that our school closed, I was watching the news pretty closely and I had a bad feeling,” Mrs. Jameson said, explaining that she and Maggie conducted a few interviews on the last day schools were open “to have a little bank of interviews to post. We spent most of our day together on that last day of school.”
She said after running out of the banked interviews, the duo has been able to connect through Zoom for interviews. She commended Maggie’s mom for helping coordinate the Zoom meetings to keep Mondays with Maggie going.
Mrs. Jameson said she remembers when Maggie entered the sixth grade and was eager to work with her. Now having the chance to do so, she looks forward to continuing to help with Maggie’s student reporting career.
“It’s been just such a fun experience,” Mrs. Jameson said. “People look forward to it at school. Teachers on Mondays, they always make comments to me and Maggie that they look forward to starting their week off with her.”
To view Mondays with Maggie, visit cfevstigertales.com/staff_profile/maggie-koehler.