Portland teacher’s graphic novel captivates kids

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Most people remember one or two elementary school teachers who stood out and shaped who they became as adults.

Well, the kids at Woodstock Elementary have quite a star for a teacher — one who’s getting national recognition for his graphic novels.

Aron Nels Steinke isn’t Mr. Wolf — but he kind of is.

He writes “Mr. Wolf’s Class,” a graphic novel published by Scholastic with two follow-ups coming out in the next year.

“I use a wolf so I’m going to draw myself as a wolf,” Steinke said. “It’s a lot of fun to take this world in the classroom and have things unusual happen.”

Aron Nels Steike's graphic novel "Mr. Wolf's Class" is a big hit with kids — including those in his own fourth and fifth grade class. (KOIN)

His characters are anthropomorphs — humans with an animal form. Steinke’s fourth and fifth grade students are big fans of the comics. 

“They’re really good. I like the drawing and for shading, how he just draws little lines and stuff,” student Jackie Shannon said. 

Students even think some of the characters are modeled after them.

“In the beginning there’s a character named Liz and I’m Elizabeth and it shows her reading a book, which is what I do,” Elizabeth Larrison said. “So, she’s not really like me, but that part seems like me because I stay up on reading a lot.” 

The characters and Mr. Wolf are loosely based on real students and Steinke. 

“I like that he has it in a class and that even though they’re talking animals, it can still be realistic fiction ’cause they’re based off kids he was teaching and he was writing that book at the same time,” fourth grader Sutton Schwartz said. 

Steike nabbed an Eisner Award, which is described as the Academy Award of comics, years ago after he started out drawing events of the day — including one where he found a note in a classroom.

“It took me a while to unfold it and it just said ‘fart,'” Steike said. “And those were just things that made me laugh. I wanted to share them with other teachers.”

Over the summer, The New York Times chose “Mr. Wolf’s Class” as a book that eases “back to school jitters,” saying the character’s problems are strikingly like humans, only funnier.

Steike said he’ll continue teaching and writing — with his greatest inspirations in his classroom.

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