For six straight years, Dallas Academy’s yearbook has taken first place honors from the National Scholastic Press Association.

One year, the organization named “The Legend” an All-American Yearbook.

The school’s publishing company uses the book as a teaching tool.

And six dedicated students produce all 140 pages.

So it’s no wonder that headmaster Jim Richardson considers it a minor footnote that the yearbook staffers, like all 135 students at Dallas Academy, have minor learning disabilities.

“If you didn’t know how many students we have, you’d probably look at our yearbook and say 1,000,” he says. “They do a really good job. The yearbook has really soared.”

But make no mistake, the staffers work at it. And they’re not afraid to say so.

“You have to plan so much and work so hard,” says 17-year-old senior Chelsea Hughes. “I can’t tell you how many times last year I was up here on a Saturday … But once you get that book back, and you open it up and see your name at the bottom of a page you did, it’s a really good feeling. But it’s a lot of work.”

Aside from the technical skills they develop, the students receive other benefits from the yearbook production class, adviser Jill Hennegan says.

“They learn a lot of time-management skills; they learn a lot of self-discipline,” she says. “The payoff is so big when they see that book. I think they build up a lot of self-confidence.”

Editor Alicia McPherson, an 18-year-old senior, says she enjoys the camaraderie of working on the staff. The girls appear to share an easy rapport with Hennegan.

“We have so much fun,” McPherson says.

Work on the yearbook lasts throughout the school year. The staff plans the theme, takes the pictures, writes the copy, designs the pages and meets publishing deadlines.

“It’s a huge responsibility to make all those decisions,” Hennegan says. “I try to guide them in the right direction, but it’s their decision what the yearbook looks like.”

A variety of interests drew the students to the yearbook staff. Della Eaker designs computer graphics. Katie Kerian enjoys scrapbooking and journaling. Caroline Baccich is a photographer.

Dallas Academy, which borders East Dallas and Lake Highlands near White Rock Lake, provides a structured environment with small classes for students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The school offers most programs available at public high schools, Richardson says, and about 90 percent of Dallas Academy students go on to college.

Hennegan, who has taught at the school for 20 years, said she recruits students to work on the yearbook who exhibit creativity, special skills, maturity and responsibility.

“I think I have a passion for this, and I think it rubs off on the students,” she says.

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