Mural-making turned into some merry-making recently in a Hood River Valley High School classroom.

“Step back here — it looks great!” one student said as outlining tape and masking sheets were pulled. With the reveal, the mural was finished, and the seniors who created it celebrated. There were high fives and hugs, and a gleeful huddle ending in upraised hands and a loud “whoooohoooo!” filled the room. It was the culmination of weeks-long gift from the seniors to a teacher they love.

What they left is a wall-sized legacy for English Teacher Gabriel Judah. During free time and after school, a group of eight members of the Class of 2019 designed and created a set of geometric shapes that covers one wall of Judah’s classroom. Some of the students have never actually been in one of Judah’s writing classes, but they wanted to give something to him as they depart HRVHS. Judah’s classroom is a de facto study and hang-out zone for many members of Eagle nation.

“It started with a group of us,” said student Estefani Reyes, “We had been off-site for fourth-period, and we decided we wanted to do something since it’s our senior year, and we came up with the idea of painting  the wall.”

(In off-site, seniors have the option of staying on campus or not for some periods of the school day, depending on their schedules and credit status.)

“I got into it because some of my friends came here and I started joining them, and we started meeting in Mr. Judah’s room,” Reyes said. “This is our senior year, it’s something special we’re giving to him.”

One member of the group photoshopped the design, and the group chose the colors, with Judah’s final approval, and developed a step-by-step work plan, supply list and budget. They paid for all supplies themselves. Some of the mural makers have studied with Judah, some not. He explained how it developed:

“They started coming during my prep sometimes to use my computers, and said, ‘Can we come back in again?’ I told them, ‘Any time you need a quiet place to study, and I’m not teaching a class.’

“I’d see them working and ask, ‘Want some cookies?’ They’d do the same thing, see me in here and, ‘You want some chips?’ Sometimes they would get done with their work and offer to score tests for me,” he said, referring to multiple choice exams. “It sort of turned into this thing where if they need a quiet place, they have the room, and if they can help me, they do that,” Judah said.

Judah enjoyed tracking the mural progress from his desk, the prototype pulled up on his laptop. “They’ve been so good for me,” Judah said. “Sometimes I have students where I feel I give a lot to them, but this group has been so conscientious about giving back as much as they take. It’s so cool to have this project. It’s a symbol of the way our relationship has been. They’ve given so much to me.”

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