From 1981 until 1989, I taught English, speech, and drama at Jackson Jr. High in SE Roanoke. I loved that school.
My second floor classroom had huge windows that actually opened, so we could see and hear what was going on in the outside world on 9th Street. Every spring, a tree near the cafeteria had the most beautiful pink blooms you could imagine. And a few weeks after the tree blossomed, we'd have an actual graduation ceremony for the ninth graders. Some of my students had parents and grandparents that had attended Jackson. Jackson, as close to a neighborhood school as you were likely to find, had a strong sense of community.
At Jackson, I showed my English classes a 16 mm movie called "Story of A Book" about how author Marguerite Henry got an idea to write Peter Lundy and the Medicine Hat Stallion. Henry, who narrated the film, told how she did research, planned the book, and eventually wrote it. I remember thinking, Hmmm. Maybe I could do that.
When the middle school concept came, I was transferred to a school across town from Jackson. My classroom had small windows that didn't open, and I couldn't watch much of the outside world. There wasn't much sense of community, unless you count who sided with whom during the fights. Eventually, the Jackson I knew was torn down and replaced with a "new, improved" Jackson.
In 1997, I retired from public school teaching, although I taught college English for a while. And I started writing. I followed Marguerite Henry's directions, and eventually I had a book.
A few months ago, some of my former Jackson students, who'd friended me on Facebook, decided to have a reunion for those who were at Jackson in the early and mid-80s. Word spread, and plans for a reunion in Jackson Park took shape. A good time was had by all. Here are a few pictures: