Lit mag adviser fosters leadership by creating community of equals

In advising Excalibur staff, Myers more guide on the side than sage on the stage

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Myers sits on the floor of the library during McCallum’s semi-annual coffee house. The event was a showcase of original student poetry and music planned and sponsored by the Excalibur staff. “Excalibur really pulled it together in the past couple months with organization and publicity,” Keely McNab said. McNab, Excalibur’s co-head of special events, was excited by the event’s return after a pandemic-caused absence. “Coffeehouse was definitely a success this year despite its challenges,” McNab said. “I’m so glad we got to give our talented McCallum artists a platform in which to share their original artwork.”

For English teacher Daniel Myers, Excalibur is more than just McCallum’s literary magazine. It’s a way to celebrate and legitimize the work of students.

“I feel it’s very powerful to publish something,” Myers said. “I’m trying to empower kids, and I’m trying to charge them up and get them ready to go out in the world. I feel that publishing children’s work, celebrating their work, is one of the best ways to do that.”

Excalibur was created in the 1960s to publish art and literature produced by McCallum students. Although Myers advises the class, Excalibur is almost entirely student-run. Senior and co-special events coordinator Keely McNab believes student leadership is key to Excalibur’s success.

“I think it’s super important to have everybody more on an equal level,” McNab said. “And everybody’s just kind of working together rather than one teacher teaching everything.”

While Excalibur staffers cite this structure as one of the most fulfilling aspects of the class, it can sometimes be the most challenging. With roles such as chief of marketing, chief of content, chief of design, and more, students are the ones “running the business.” Myers’s job is to sit back, observe, and sort out any issues that arise.

I’m trying to empower kids and I’m trying to charge them up and get them ready to go out into the world.”

— English teacher and Excalibur sponsor Daniel Myers

“I think that one of the things about conventional schooling that needs to change is that a lot of what y’all do is look at something from outside,” Myers said. “But I think it’s really empowering to instead invite you all into the process.”

For McNab, this attitude and the environment Myers creates are key parts of what make Excalibur so special. “He’s very involved with the students,” McNab said. “It’s more of a friendly relationship. He makes you feel like you can talk to him like a normal person instead of like a superior. He teaches with us like it’s a learning experience for all of us, including him.”

Myers is also one of the best things about the class for senior and co-editor-in-chief Ivy Golyzniak.

“That’s one of the main reasons I’ve done Excalibur for so long,” Golyzniak said. “I wanted to take a class that [Myers] teaches, but also it’s really cool to have a class that actually produces a product at the end of the year. Having something that you’re working towards constantly… [is] very motivating.”

English teacher Daniel Myers flips through an old edition of Excalibur. For Myers, teaching high school helps him support students at a crucial time during their lives. “I tried to be that support that I didn’t have [in high school],” Myers said. “I thought about,. ‘When could I have most benefited from someone having my back and supporting me?’ And it was, for sure, high school.” Photo by Julia Husted.
Myers, like Golyzniak, also loves the feeling of creating something tangible.

“Kids spend so much time and put so much energy into schoolwork and at the end of the day they have this letter,” Myers said. “They have this weird sort of symbolic representation, but they don’t have anything real. So in Excalibur, they have a real thing. They’re like, ‘I made this and it has my name on it.’ And there’s something really profound about making an actual thing that you can touch and see and feel and smell.”

Typically, Excalibur is published as a physical book, composed of student submissions; however, due to the pandemic, the 2020 edition (themed “Castle Hill”) was published digitally.

This year, Myers is unsure which medium the book will be published in, but he still wants Excalibur to be the unifying force it has been in the past.

Excalibur is just sort of looking for ways to really be able to unify that and elevate and inspire that voice,” he said.

According to Myers, Excalibur celebrates the melting pot of identities that exist at Mac.

“It’s really our differences and diversity that is our identity,” he said. “When we take those voices into one place I think it really unifies us and strengthens that identity of a diverse, unified population.”