Debra Barry (BA ’94) is a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Excelsior Middle School in Cedar Rapids. She said her teaching career provides inspiration for her writing every day.
“I have 16 years of humorous and inspirational tales to make me smile every day,” she said.
Barry has taught kindergarten, first, third, and fourth grades and was a Title I math teacher before moving to her current position.
Her first book, Aly-oop (2010), is the story of a girl whose family nickname meant to encourage her is a stumbling block when she goes to school. She wrote it to help children gain self-esteem and learn how to deal with bullying.
“Aly-oop is a combination of my kindergarten teaching experiences and my own childhood experiences,” Barry said.
Colleagues applaud Aly-oop in the classroom. Kindergarten and reading teachers said, “After reading the story and examining the new vocabulary, we discuss embarrassment, pride, encouragement, trying your best, and determination. The main focus of the book discussions are for students to always give their personal best in all they do in life.”
Barry has also published Debbie’s Eyes, The Loneliest Leaf, and Brady Pickles, a story about a picky eater who turns into his favorite food.
She said she hopes each of her books teach a lesson—Debbie’s Eyes is about the importance of giving back. The Loneliest Leaf is about learning to see the bigger picture.
An overall theme Barry hopes to get across with her writing as well as her teaching is encouragement.
“As a teacher, I’ve seen many students who are encouraged by family and friends to achieve in life, but I’ve also seen those without that support system,” she said. “As a teacher, I know that each smile, hug, or word I say leaves an impression on my students forever. I want that impression to be positive.”
Barry’s teaching and writing also connects in other ways. She has visited several area classrooms as an author and has created lesson plans for teachers to go along with her books.
“I know teachers and we all seem to be practical,” she said. “If we are going to spend our hard-earned dollars on a book, we have to know how to use it and that it can be connected with our curriculum.”
To learn more about Barry, her books, and the lesson plans that go with them, visit her online.