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Tiburon native’s graphic novel chronicles teaching amid pandemic while battling cancer

Apr 19, 2023

This excerpt is reprinted from The Ark and written by Emily Lavin. The full article requires a subscription to The Ark.

Adam Bessie likens teaching to improv. On a good day in the classroom, his community-college students are bouncing ideas off each other, sharing their perspectives freely and taking the lesson in unpredictable directions, generating an electricity he says is palpable. 

So when the pandemic hit in March 2020 and forced the longtime Diablo Valley College English teacher to abruptly pivot to online classes, the change felt cataclysmic. The vibrant classroom that thrived on synergy between students was now relegated to Zoom, where students were confined to tiny boxes and could turn off their video and microphones with a click of the mouse. 

Bessie, who grew up in Tiburon scripting comics turned into his debut graphic memoir “Going Remote: A Teacher’s Journey,” which traces the pandemic’s effects on Bessie and his students while ruminating on the larger effects of the loss of community and the corporatization of public education. Also woven into the memoir, which is illustrated by Bessie’s frequent collaborator Peter Glanting, is Bessie’s personal battle with cancer. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor more than a decade ago and was receiving treatment throughout the pandemic.