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Draper, Sharon M. 1948-

Draper, Sharon M. 1948-

Personal

Born August 21, 1948, in Cleveland, OH; daughter of Victor D. (a hotel manager) and Catherine (an administrative assistant) Mills; married Larry E. Draper (an educator); children: Wendy, Damon, Crystal, Cory. Ethnicity: "African American." Education: Pepperdine University, B.A., 1971; Miami University (Oxford, OH), M.A. Hobbies and other interests: Reading; "I won't read junk; there's no time to waste on poorly written books."

Addresses

Office—P.O. Box 36551, Cincinnati, OH 45236. E-mail—drapersharon@mac.com.

Career

Public speaker, poet, educator, and author. Walnut Hills High School, Cincinnati, OH, English teacher and head of department, 1972-2005; Mayerson Academy, associate; former Duncanson artist-in-residence at Taft Museum. Member of board, National Commission on Teaching and America's Future; member, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Lecturer and presenter at schools and other venues. Guest on radio and television programs.

Member

International Reading Association, American Federation of Teachers, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (member of board of directors, 1995—), National Council of Teachers of English, Top Ladies of Distinction, Links, Inc., Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts, Conference on English Leadership, Delta Kappa Gamma, Phi Delta Kappa, Women's City Club.

Awards, Honors

First prize, Ebony Literary Contest, 1991, for short story "One Small Torch"; Coretta Scott King Genesis Award, American Library Association (ALA), Best Book for Young Adults designation, ALA, Best Books designation, Children's Book Council (CBC)/Bank Street College, Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, and Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies designation, National Council for the Social Studies, all 1995, all for Tears of a Tiger, and all 1998, all for Forged by Fire; named Outstanding High School English Language Arts Educator, Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts, 1995;

Midwest regional winner, National Council of Negro Women Excellence in Teaching Award, 1996; Ohio Governor's Educational Leadership Award, 1996; named National Teacher of the Year, 1997; ALA Best Book designation, International Reading Association (IRA) Notable Book designation, and Books for the Teen Age selection, New York Public Library, all 2000, all for Romiette and Julio; IRA Children's Choice designation, 2001, and IRA Young-Adult Choice selection, 2003, both for Darkness before Dawn; CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book designation, and named among ALA Top Ten Sports Books for Youth, both 2003, both for Double Dutch; Coretta Scott King Honor Book designation, and Books for the Teen Age designation, New York Public Library, both 2004, and IRA Young-Adult Choice designation, 2005, all for The Battle of Jericho; Coretta Scott King Award, Notable Social Studies Trade Book designation, CBC/National Council of Social Studies, Heartland Award, IRA Notable Book for a Global Society designation, NAACP Image Award nomination, and Ohioana Award for Young Adult Literature, all 2007, all for Copper Sun; Coretta Scott King Honor Book designation, 2008, for November Blues; Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award; named YWCA Career Woman of Achievement; Dean's Award, Howard University School of Education; Pepperdine University Distinguished Alumnus Award; Marva Collins Education Excellence Award; named Ohio State Department of Education Pioneer in Education. Honorary degrees include D.H.L, College of Mount Saint Joseph, and D.H., Cincinnati State University.

Writings

FOR YOUNG ADULTS

Tears of a Tiger ("Hazelwood High Trilogy"), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.

Forged by Fire ("Hazelwood High Trilogy"), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.

Romiette and Julio, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.

Jazzimagination, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.

Darkness before Dawn ("Hazelwood High Trilogy"), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.

Double Dutch, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

The Battle of Jericho ("Jericho" trilogy), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.

Copper Sun, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2006.

November Blues ("Jericho" trilogy), Atheneum (New York, NY), 2007.

Fire from the Rock, Dutton (New York, NY), 2007.

Sassy: Little Sister Is Not My Name, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2009.

Just Another Hero ("Jericho" trilogy), Atheneum (New York, NY), 2009.

"ZIGGY AND THE BLACK DINOSAURS" SERIES; FOR CHILDREN

The Buried Bones Mystery, Just Us Books (East Orange, NJ), 1994.

Lost in the Tunnel of Time, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson, Just Us Books (East Orange, NJ), 1996.

Shadows of Caesar's Creek, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson, Just Us Books (East Orange, NJ), 1997.

The Space Camp Adventure, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson, Aladdin (New York, NY), 2006.

The Backyard Animal Show, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson, Aladdin (New York, NY), 2006.

Stars and Sparks on Stage, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson, Aladdin (New York, NY), 2006.

OTHER

Teaching from the Heart: Reflections, Encouragement, and Inspiration, Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH), 2000.

Not Quite Burned out but Crispy around the Edges: Inspiration, Laughter, and Encouragement for Teachers, Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH), 2001.

(Coauthor) Sampson, Davis, George Jenkins, and Rameck Hunt, We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Led to Success, Dutton (New York, NY), 2005.

Also author of Let the Circle Be Unbroken (children's poetry), and Buttered Bones (poetry for adults). Contributor of poems and short stories to literary magazines; contributor of essay "The Touch of a Teacher" to What Governors Need to Know about Education, Center for Policy Research of the National Governor's Association.

Adaptations

All Draper's books have been recorded on audiocassette by Recorded Books, including Double Dutch, read by Patricia R. Floyd, 2002; The Battle of Jericho, read by J.D. Jackson, 203; Romiette and Julio and Darkness before Dawn, both read by Sisi Aisha Johnson, 2003; and Copper Sun, read by Myra Lucretia Taylor, 2006.

Sidelights

Sharon M. Draper is a nationally award-winning teacher and writer whose books include Forged by Fire, Romiette and Julio, Darkness before Dawn, the Coretta Scott King Award-winning Copper Sun, and the easy-reading "Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs" mystery series. Reading, teaching, and writing are all connected for Draper, who wanted to be a teacher since childhood. As she once told an interviewer, "I was an avid reader. I read every single book in the elementary school library, all of them. I did not plan to be a writer until much, much later. I tell students all the time that in order to be a good writer it is necessary first to be a good reader. You need some information in your head. Reading is input. Writing is output. You can't write without input."

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Draper was the eldest of three children raised in a family where education was a given. The question was not "would you attend college, it was where and to study what," Draper explained in her interview. She entered Cleveland Public Schools in the 1950s, inspired by a home where she was surrounded by books. Her mother read stories, poems, fairytales, and nursery rhymes to Draper and her siblings from the time they were very young. She recalled a teacher who once "gave me O's for outstanding, saying an A wasn't good enough." A fifth-grade teacher introduced Draper and her fellow students to poetry by Langston Hughes and Robert Frost, and they also read and loved Shakespeare. "We didn't know we weren't supposed to be able to do that in fifth grade. She gave it to us and we loved it," Draper said. "It was part of making me the teacher I am today."

Draper attended Pepperdine University as a National Merit scholar, majoring in English. Upon graduation in 1971, she returned to Ohio where she married and assumed a teaching position in the Cincinnati Public Schools. Her many years teaching public school has given her some definite ideas on the reading habits of teens. "I know what kids like—what they will read, and what they won't. Although I have nothing against Charles Dickens, many teenagers would rather gag than read him. Dickens wrote for his contemporaries—young people of a hundred and fifty years ago. American students might need to know about the world of London in the 1860s, but they would much rather read about their own world first. Not only will they read about recognizable experiences with pleasure, but they will also be encouraged to write as well."

According to an essayist in the St. James Guide to Young-Adult Writers, "Draper's works address the problems African Americans face in a predominantly white society, specifically stereotyping of black males. They also examine the dynamics of African American families and communities. Her … fiction is energetic and intense, as characters become self aware and attain emotional growth. She often creates mystery plots as a means for characters to be introspective and explore their identities. She sets her books in Cincinnati where she lives and teaches, suggesting a familiarity with her characters and community that enhances their realism."

Draper's first young-adult novel, and the first volume in her "Hazelwood High" trilogy, Tears of a Tiger recounts

the story of Andy Jackson, a black youth who struggles to make sense of the death of his best friend, Robert, in an automobile accident in which Andy was the driver. The two teens had been drinking beer with their friends Tyrone and B.J. in celebration of a victory by their high-school basketball team. Tyrone and B.J. are able to move past the awful pain caused by the accident, Tyrone by finding support from his girlfriend Rhonda, and B.J. through religion. Andy, however, is wracked with guilt, grief, and pain that do not subside with time.

In Tears of a Tiger Draper depicts the difficulties in healing emotionally through the character of Andy, and through him she also addresses the institutional attitudes confronting young black males. In one episode, for example, teachers discuss how Andy's grief cannot be all that serious since he is African American. The teen also internalizes ideas about himself that prevent him from realizing his full capabilities; for example, he believes he cannot be successful academically because he is a basketball player. Merri Monks, writing in Booklist, observed that "Andy's perceptions of the racism directed toward young black males—by teachers, guidance counselors, and clerks in shopping malls—will be recognized by African American YAs." Draper's use of news stories, journal entries, homework assignments, and letters give the novel an immediacy that adds to its power.

Kathy Fritts, reviewing Tears of a Tiger for School Library Journal, pointed out that in Draper's "moving novel" "the characters' voices are strong, vivid, and ring true," while Monks remarked that the work's "characters and their experiences will captivate teen readers." In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer concluded of Tears of a Tiger that "the combination of raw energy and intense emotions should stimulate readers," and Dorothy M. Broderick wrote in Voice of Youth Advocates: "Suffice to say, not only is Draper an author to watch for, but that this is as compelling a novel as any published in the last two decades." Roger Sutton, reviewing Tears of a Tiger for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, stated that, "rather than a tidy summary of suicide symptoms and ‘ways to help,’ readers instead get a grave portrait of unceasing despair and a larger picture of how young African-American men like Andy get lost in a system that will not trust or reach out to them." Tears of a Tiger received several honors, including the Coretta Scott King Genesis Award.

Forged by Fire, the sequel to Tears of a Tiger, is also grounded in socially relevant themes. Child sexual abuse and drug addiction replace suicide and racism, yet both books reach a tragic finality. Draper wrote Forged by Fire's first chapter as a short story, "One Small Torch," which she published in Ebony. The novel went on to win Draper her second Coretta Scott King Award.

A minor character in Tears of a Tiger, Gerald Nickelby, is the focus of Forged by Fire. At age three Gerald was burned in a fire after being left alone by his mother,

Monique. Following his hospital stay, Gerald goes to live with Aunt Queen, a loving and supportive woman. Six years later, following Aunt Queen's death, Monique reenters her son's life. Monique has married Jordan Sparks, the father of Angel, Gerald's new half-sister. Gerald soon learns that Sparks has sexually abused Angel and through the testimony of the children, Sparks is sent to prison. When Sparks returns six years later, Monique, who indulges too much in drugs, lets him return to family life where he once again attempts to sexually harm his young daughter.

Tom S. Hurlburt, reviewing Forged by Fire for School Library Journal, wrote that although there is "no all's-well ending, … readers will have hope for Gerald and Angel, who have survived a number of gut-wrenching ordeals by relying on their constant love and caring for one another." Candace Smith, writing in Booklist, concluded that "Draper faces some big issues (abuse, death, drugs)" in her novel "and provides concrete options and a positive African American role model in Gerald."

In Darkness before Dawn, which concludes the "Hazelwood High" trilogy, Draper tells the story of high schooler Keisha Montgomery, who has just lost her ex-boyfriend to suicide and must now deal with an overly aggressive track coach. Debbie Carton, reviewing the novel for Booklist, wrote that "the graduation scene, in which class president Keisha gives the closing speech, is moving and triumphant, showing Draper and her vibrant characters at their best." While Angela J. Reynolds observed in School Library Journal that "readers may be overwhelmed by the soap-opera feel of this issue-laden world," Odette Cornwall concluded in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy that "not only did Draper make Keisha real, but she also wove many prominent social issues faced by young adults today into the story line."

Draper begins another series with The Battle of Jericho. Here readers meet sixteen-year-old cousins Josh and Jericho Prescott as they decide to pledge the popular Warriors of Distinction fraternity at Frederick Douglass High. During pledge week the Warriors' hazing gets out of control, with tragic results. Although Ilene Cooper wrote in Booklist that the characters' dialogue sounds "stilted" due to Draper's decision to avoid profanity, The Battle of Jericho involves "a timely scenario" that finds "middle-class African American kids … put into a situation that many young people face": the need to fit in, no matter what the cost. Draper effectively "conveys the seductive power of teen clubs and the dangers of hazing rituals in this timely novel," concluded a Publishers Weekly contributor.

A sequel to The Battle of Jericho, November Blues, examines the aftermath of Josh's tragic death, as Jericho and Josh's girlfriend, November Nelson, attempt to come to terms with life without him. For November, a promising high-school senior, their brief relationship has left her pregnant with Josh's child and a decision that will decide the course of her future. Anne Rouyer predicted in her School Library Journal review that teens will appreciate Draper's "accurate and sympathetic portrayal of urban teens" and "the straightforward way that the author presents the issues they face." November Blues "is well-plotted, realistic and matter-of-fact," noted a Kirkus Reviews writer, the critic adding that Draper's characters "are well-drawn" and "likeable." "Along with the serious issues, teens will appreciate the fast, funny contemporary dialogue …," wrote Booklist critic Hazel Rochman, "and also the view of the [perfect] girl who … screws up big time."

One of several stand-alone novels by Draper, Double Dutch concerns a group of eighth graders with serious problems. Delia is unable to read and does not want anyone to find out; her friend Randy fears that his father has deserted the family; and the violent Tolliver twins scare their new classmates. "Draper adeptly paints a convincing portrayal of how young people think, act, feel, and interact with one another," Connie Tyrrell Burns commented in School Library Journal. A critic for Kirkus Reviews found that "Delia and her friends are delightful, and the reader is rooting for them all the way."

One of Draper's most acclaimed novels, Copper Sun, finds fifteen-year-old Amari taken from her home amid the Ewe people and sold into slavery by brutal African slavers. Through Draper's compelling description, readers share the horrors of the Middle Passage with the frightened young teen, and discover the indignities of life as a slave when Amari's boat lands in the Carolinas. Bought by a plantation owner, the young woman serves her master's teenage son until events prompt her to escape south to Florida and freedom. While KaaVonia Hinton observed in Kliatt that Draper does not shy away from depicting the more-violent aspects of slavery, such as torture, murder, and sexual aggression, Copper Sun will inspire "discussions about early African culture and sensibility, acts of resistance executed by slaves …, and abolitionist efforts." In School Library Journal Gerry Larson called the award-winning novel an "action-packed, multifaceted, character-rich story [that] describes the shocking realities of the slave trade and plantation life while portraying the perseverance, resourcefulness, and triumph of the human spirit."

Draper focuses on more-recent history in Fire from the Rock, which is set in the midst of the civil rights movement of the twentieth century. In the story, set in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, Sylvia Patterson has been an honor student in her all-black junior high school. As a freshman, she is now selected as one of the nine students to be transferred to all-white Central High School in response to the Supreme Court's mandate to integrate the nation's public schools. Concerned more with academic success than with crusading, Sylvia fears the move, and her experiences as one of the Little Rock Nine are recounted in both a narrative and diary entries. "With stirring complexity, Draper personalizes the civil rights struggle beyond slogans and politics," wrote Rochman in a review of Fire from the Rock, while a Kirkus Reviews writer dubbed the story "compelling." Noting the many historical aspects of the novel, Hinton wrote in her Kliatt review that the author "skillfully portrays the attitude and climate of late 1950s Arkansas and of the United States in general," thereby presenting the mixed view toward integration that existed on both sides of the racial divide.

In her "Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs" series Draper mixes interesting characters with elements of African-American history and folklore. Ziggy and his three friends, who call themselves the Black Dinosaurs, begin their adventures in Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs. In Lost in the Tunnel of Time, Ziggy and friends take a field trip to the Ohio River and learn about the Underground Railroad and the tunnels the slaves used to escape the South. In the third volume, Shadows of Caesar's Creek, Draper makes connections between African Americans and Native Americans. Other titles featuring Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs include The Buried Bones Mystery, The Space Camp Adventure, and The Backyard Animal Show, all featuring artwork by Jesse Joshua Watson. Reviewing The Space Camp Adventure, in which Ziggy and company attend space camp at the Alabama Space Center, Elaine E. Knight wrote in School Library Journal that Draper incorporates "considerable humor and even a light touch of mystery" into her easy-reading, science-themed story.

Draper once commented: "I feel very blessed that I have had so much success in such a short time. I hope that my books can continue to make a difference in the lives of young people." In a statement posted on her home page, Draper proclaimed: "I approach the world with the eyes of an artist, the ears of a musician, and the soul of a writer. I see rainbows where others see only rain, and possibilities when others see only problems."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Contemporary Black Biography, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 16, 1998.

Hinton, KaaVonia, Sharon M. Draper: Embracing Literacy, Scarecrow Press (Metuchen, NJ), 2008.

St. James Guide to Young-Adult Writers, 2nd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 1, 1994, Merri Monks, review of Tears of a Tiger, p. 492; February 15, 1997, Candace Smith, review of Forged by Fire, pp. 1016-1017; January 1, 2001, Debbie Carton, review of Darkness before Dawn, p. 939; June 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of The Battle of Jericho, p. 1761; August, 2007, Hazel Rochman, review of Fire from the Rock, p. 63; October 15, 2007, Hazel Rochman, review of November Blues, p. 44.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1995, review of Tears of a Tiger, p. 164; June, 1997, review of Forged by Fire, p. 355; October, 2002, review of Double Dutch, p. 54; July, 2003, review of The Battle of Jericho, p. 444; April, 2006, Karen Coats, review of Copper Sun, p. 348; September, 2007, Karen Coats, review of Fire from the Rock, p. 18.

Christian Science Monitor, May 5, 1997, David Holmstrom, "America's Top Teacher Gives Tough Assignments—And Plenty of Support," p. 12.

Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, April, 2002, Arina Zonnenberg, review of Romiette and Julio, p. 660, and Odette Cornwall, review of Darkness before Dawn, p. 661.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2002, review of Double Dutch, p. 804; June 1, 2003, review of The Battle of Jericho, p. 802; July 15, 2007, review of Fire from the Rock; October 1, 2007, review of November Blues.

Kliatt, July, 1998, Jean Palmer, review of Forged by Fire, p. 10; July, 2002, Claire Rosser, review of Double Dutch, p. 9; November, 2003, Nancy C. Chaplin, review of Darkness before Dawn, p. 46; January, 2006, KaaVonia Hinton, review of Copper Sun; July, 2007, KaaVonia Hinton, review of Fire from the Rock, p. 12.

Ohioana, 2002, Virginia Schaefer Horvath, review Darkness before Dawn.

Publishers Weekly, January 15, 1996, review of Tears of a Tiger, p. 463; March 25, 1996, review of Lost in the Tunnel of Time, p. 85; December 16, 1996, review of Forged by Fire, p. 61; June 17, 2002, review of Double Dutch, p. 66; June 9, 2003, review of The Battle of Jericho, p. 53.

School Library Journal, September, 1999, Jane Halsall, review of Romiette and Julio, p. 222; February, 2001, Angela J. Reynolds, review of Darkness before Dawn, p. 117; June, 2002, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of Double Dutch, p. 137; June 9, 2003, review of The Battle of Jericho, p. 53; January, 2006, Gerry Larson, review of Copper Sun, p. 130; January, 2007, Elaine E. Knight, review of The Space Camp Adventure, p. 92; November, 2007, Anne Rouyer, review of November Blues, p. 120.

USA Today, April 17, 1997, "An ‘A’ for Creativity: Variety Is on Teacher of the Year's Lesson Plan," p. D4.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1995, review of Tears of a Tiger, p. 338; June, 1997, review of Forged by Fire, p. 108; December, 1999, Deborah L. Dubois, review of Romiette and Julio; August, 2001, review of Darkness before Dawn, p. 200; August, 2002, review of Double Dutch, p. 191; August, 2007, Robbie L. Flowers, review of Fire from the Rock, p. 238.

ONLINE

Ohio Department of Education Web site,http://schoolimprovement.ode.ohio.gov/ (June 5, 1998), "Sharon Draper."

Sharon M. Draper Home Page,http://sharondraper.com (November 24, 2008).

Teaching Books Web site,http://www.teachingbooks.net/ (November 24, 2008), "Sharon M. Draper."

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Draper, Sharon Mills 1952–

Sharon Mills Draper 1952

Educator, writer

Taught Students the Value of Writing

Started Writing Career

Became Teacher of the Year

Selected writings

Sources

As an author, poet, and master educator named 1997 U.S. Teacher of the Year, Sharon Draper has introduced thousands of children and young people to the world of words. Draper said that teaching has been her calling and vocation, describing herself as a teacher who teaches because I must. It is in my heart and soul; part of the definition of me. I end up teaching wherever I am. As a teacher who has also become a writer she has testified to the value of story and the power of words to generations of students. Her published work, including two young adult novels, a series of juvenile fiction, and two collections of poetry has been grounded in the conviction that books could and must speak to the lives and dreams of young readers. Choosing African-American male characters has been Drapers way of giving the power of words to African-American young men.

Born to Victor and Catherine Mills in 1952 in Cleveland, Ohio, Draper was the eldest of three children raised in a close-knit neighborhood. Her father worked as a hotel manager and her mother as an administrator at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Theirs was a family where education was a given. The question was not would you attend college, it was where and to study what, Draper said. In her home, books were part of everyday life. Reading and the learning that naturally flowed from written words surrounded Draper and her siblings. Schools and schooling were always considered an open door through which the three Mills children were expected to walk with success.

Taught Students the Value of Writing

Sharon Drapers vision, in the classroom and as she wrote, has been to challenge young people to embrace learning without limits and without hesitation. She credited her family and early schooling with giving her the gift of an unlimited love of learning. Draper entered Cleveland Public Schools in the 1950s from a home where she had grown up surrounded by books. Her mother read stories, poems, fairytales, and nursery rhymes to Draper and her siblings from the time they were very young. She recalled a teacher who once gave me Os for outstanding, saying an A wasn't good enough. A fifth grade teacher gave Draper and her fellow students poetry by Langston Hughes and Robert Frost. They read and

At a Glance

Born in 1952 in Cleveland, OH; daughter of Victor Mills (a hotel manager) and Catherine Mills (newspaper administrator); married Larry Draper, 1971. Education: Pepperdine University, BA, 1971; Miami University of Ohio, MA, 1974.

Career: Cincinnati Public Schools, teacher, 1970-97; author, 1991-,

Awards: Coretta Scott King Genesis award for Literature, 1995; American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults award, 1995; Ohio State Teacher of the Year, 1997; U.S. National Teacher of the Year, 1997; National Board Certification, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 1995; Board of Directors, National Board for Professional Teaching Stan-dards, 1997; National Council of Negro Womens Excellence in Teaching Award, 1997; Delta Kapa Gamma Honor Society for Women Educators.

Addresses: Office c/o Janell Agymeman, Marie Brown Associates, lnc., 990 NE 82 Terrace, Miami, FL, United States 33138.

loved Shakespeare. We didnt know we werent supposed to be able to do that in fifth grade. She gave it to us and we loved it, Draper said. It was part of making me the teacher I am today.

Draper completed secondary school in the Cleveland Public School system, taking advanced and AP course-work. She attended Pepperdine University as a National Merit Scholar, majoring in English. Upon graduation in 1971, Pepperdine offered the then-20-year-old a teaching position and opportunity to pursue a Masters degree. She declined, returning instead to Ohio where she married and assumed a teaching position in the Cincinnati Public Schools where as of 2003 she still spent each day on the educational frontline. Draper knew even then that teaching at the high school, not the university level, was where she belonged.

In the classroom Draper soon became known among students as a challenging and no-nonsense educator likely to recite selections from The Canterbury Tales from memory or launch into a discussion of issue-laden contemporary books. Nearly half her senior English students went on to become teachers themselves. As an educator who saw joy and challenge as partners in the learning process, Draper looked for ways to capture and challenge her senior students, wanting them to stride away from high school with a sense of confidence and accomplishment. She assigned a lengthy, demanding research paper due in the last quarter of her students senior year. Designed as a test and challenge of skills in writing, analysis, and research, the assignment soon was dubbed The Draper Paper. Within a few years t-shirts were designed to be doled out only to those hardy survivors of Drapers literary challenge. She once spotted a former student at the airport in London wearing one of these shirts. Who else would dare to sport an I Survived the Draper Paper t-shirt? Juniors start to tremble just hearing about it, Draper said. This master-teacher was as respected as she was in demand among students at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati. She would not have it any other way.

Started Writing Career

Drapers first personal venture into writing came when a student handed her a writing contest application and said, Why dont you write something? The resulting short story One Small Torch was chosen from 20,000 entries as the winner of the 1991 Ebony Magazine Short Story Contest. According to an interview she did with Ebony magazine, the day after the magazine hit stands Draper started receiving phone calls and letters congratulating her on her story and her win. Her most treasured letter came from Roots author Alex Haley. It was on his own letterhead and in his own writing. To get a letter from Alex Haley, is that powerful or what?

That first success was impetus for Draper to combine her love of teaching with her love of words and story as an author and poet. Her first novel, Tears of a Tiger, grew out of Drapers recognition that powerful, once-timely works by authors like Dickens were missing the mark with her students. She wanted to create a contemporary book of literary quality to reach the cultural, ethnic, and daily realities of students in todays high school classrooms. Her novels main character, Andy, was the drunken driver in an accident that killed his best friend. Draper encouraged young writers by telling the story of rejection by 24 of 25 publishers to which Tears of a Tiger was sent. Once published, this book was affirmed as strong, vivid, and ringing true in School Library Journal. It was embraced by young readers and received both the 1995 American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and Coretta Scott King Genesis Awards.

A 1997 sequel, Forged by Fire was her second novel. It was the second novel in what would become the Hazelwood High trilogy. Forged by Fire was about Gerald, one of Andysthe main character in Tears of a Tiger basketball teammates. The conclusion to the trilogy was Darkness before Dawn, which followed Keisha, Andys ex-girlfriend through her last year of high school. Her first volume of poetry for children was accepted by Boyds Mills Press.

As a classroom teacher and mentor to novice educators, Draper knew that even the best contemporary titles often failed to draw young boys into the world of reading. Fewer books still were written with young African-American boys in mind. Her next venture, the Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs series, was written for those young readers. I know what interests kids, Draper said. I know what will catch them and make them readers in spite of themselves. In Lost in the Tunnel of Time, Ziggy and his fellow clubmates, the Black Dinosaurs, discover a tunnel once used as a station on the Underground Railroad. Always the teacher, Draper filled the book with history, knowing students would absorb the information effortlessly because of the strong, interesting story. I tell my students that if they learn nothing else in my class, I want them to understand that a powerful connection exists between historical and cultural events and the literary creations of the time, Draper told the Ohio Department of Education upon her selection as Ohio Teacher of the Year in January of 1997.

Her next book was Double Dutch, a story about a girl, Delia, who can not read, but has somehow managed to make it to her ninth grade tests before she thinks shell be found out. Shes worried about being discovered because it would mean that she could not continue competing in the Double Dutch jump rope contests that she loves. In 2003 Draper published The Battle of Jericho. In this novel, according to Publishers Weekly, Draper conveys the seductive power of teen clubs and the dangers of hazing rituals.

Became Teacher of the Year

While her writing continued on, Draper was also named both Cincinnati and Ohio Teacher of the Year, and in 1997 Draper was awarded the highest award a teacher can acquire, the coveted U.S. Teacher of the Year Award. She was given the award in 1997 by President Clinton at the White House. Being named U.S. Teacher of the Year brought diverse facets of Sharon Drapers life and personal gifts together. As a master-teacher and mentor of other educators, Draper was an able spokesperson for her profession. As a creator of fiction of interest to hard-to-reach students, Draper was an able model for high standards and innovative teaching. As a teacher by calling and vocation she was a spokesperson for the value of teachers and teaching to every child and every community.

As Teacher of the Year, Draper spoke to and on behalf of educators across the country. I was singled out, but there are thousands of teachers doing a wonderful job who receive no recognition, she said. Teachers who work all year with a class of 25 or more. At the end, every child is confident, loves school, and is ready to move on to the next grade. Does that teacher get her picture in the paper? Is he invited to speak because of an excellent job done? My privilege and challenge as Teacher of the Year is to speak for and about those teachers. The ones teaching in every school and every community who are just doing their jobs.

As spokesperson and master-educator, Draper encouraged school systems and communities to re-think the place and contribution of teachers. Teachers need affirmation and validation, Draper said. They deserve respect and support. They need space time to think and reflect and to learn. Draper called the teacher-student connection a spark where true education happened. We must find that spark, wherever it occurs and fan it into a flame. We need to ask ourselves where and why true education is happening and try to duplicate those conditions, increasing the probability of its happening again and again.

Teachers and students in every state in the U.S. meet each fall for Ready, Set, Goal conferences. Evaluation of past achievement is discussed. Goals for that and subsequent years are set. What are Sharon Drapers goals? Having long-since completed a Master of Arts degree in English at Miami University in Ohio, Draper engaged in ongoing post-graduate study. Completion of doctoral studies was in her ten-year plan. Personal and professional goals also included making time to write more poetry and add to her Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs series. Draper was interested in further literary experimentation with the goal of reaching African-American students, especially boys.

Touring and meeting with teachers as Teacher of the Year has sparked a dream to find ways to mentor and encourage teachers and quality teaching. When a students asks, Should I teach? I say, Yes. Absolutely, Draper said. Some young people think teachers dont make enough money and dont get enough respect. I tell them Ill never make as much as Michael Jordan, but neither will you. I tell them if you want to make a difference in somebodys life, then go into teaching.

As a member of the National Board for Teaching Standards, Draper worked with colleagues within the educational community, business and community leaders, and government to develop standards by which teachers and teaching may be quantitatively and actively measured. Professional development for teachers was a personal priority that Draper addressed by writing for professional publications and speaking to educators.

During my tenure as Teacher of the Year I have communicated the importance of creating a nurturing environment for teachers. Teaching is such a difficult, challenging job. Id like to find ways to develop planning strategies that come not from the administration down, but from teachers up. Spending 1997 touring the country as Teacher of the Year provided Draper with a forum for speakingand teaching, of course, about the critical need for cooperation and bridge-building between communities and schools. Her work with the National Board for Teaching Standards challenged educators wary of accountability outside the educational community and challenged business and government to join schools as team members rather than outside critics.

Finally, Drapers goal as education foraged ahead in the twenty-first century was to spend decades, day in and day out, in school classrooms teaching students. She would measure her success in the names of students graduating with a deep sense of accomplishment and confidence in their own abilities and skill. Her legacy would be generations of students entering colleges and universities armed with a love of learningand wearing t-shirts declaring I Survived the Draper Paper.

Selected writings

Tears of a Tiger, Simon & Schuster, 1994.

Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs, Just Us Books, 1995.

Forged by Fire, 1996.

Romiette and Julio, Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Jazzimation, Scholastic, 1999.

Teaching from the Heart, Heinemann, 1999.

Not Quite Burned out but Crispy around the Edges, Heinemann, 2001.

Darkness Before Dawn, Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Double Dutch, Simon & Schuster, 2002.

The Battle of Jericho, Simon & Schuster, 2003.

Sources

Books

Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, 2nd Edition, Gale Group, 2002.

Writers Directory, 19th Edition, St. James Press, 2003.

Periodicals

Ebony, December 1990, p. 18; May, 1998, p. 126.

Jet, May 12, 1997, p. 25.

Publishers Weekly, October 31, 1994, p. 64; June 17, 2002, p. 66; June 9, 2003, p. 53.

School Library Journal, February 1995, p. 112; August 1996, p. 142.

On-line

Chief State School Officers Official Website, www.ccsso.org/ntoy.html (January 1997).

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained through a news release, from the Ohio Department of Education on January 9, 1997; and the Ohio Teacher of the Year Program publications, Ohio SchoolNet, February 11, 1997.

Catherine V. Donaldson

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Draper, Sharon M. 1952–

Sharon M. Draper 1952

Educator, writer

All I ever Wanted to do was Teach

The Draper Paper

The Teacher as Writer

Writer as Teacher

Teacher of the Year

Ready, Set, Goal

Selected writings

Sources

As an author, poet, and master educator named 1997 U.S. Teacher of the Year, Sharon Draper has introduced thousands of children and young people to the world of words. Draper says teaching is her calling and vocation, describing herself as a teacher who teaches because I must. It is in my heart and soul; part of the definition of me. I end up teaching wherever I am. As a teacher who is also a writer she has testified to the value of story and the power of words to generations of students. Her published work, including two young adult novels, a series of juvenile fiction, and two collections of poetry are grounded in the conviction that books can and must speak to the lives and dreams of young readers. Choosing African American male characters is Drapers way of giving the power of words to African American young men.

Born to Victor and Catherine Mills in Cleveland, Ohio, Draper was eldest of three children raised in a close-knit neighborhood. Her father worked as a hotel manager and her mother as an administrator at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Theirs was a family where education was a given. The question was not would you attend college, it was where and to study what, Draper said. In her home, books were part of everyday life. Reading and the learning that naturally flows from written words surrounded Draper and her siblings. Schools and schooling were always considered an open door through which the three Mills children were expected to walk with success.

All I ever Wanted to do was Teach

Sharon Drapers vision, in the classroom and as she writes, is to challenge young people to embrace learning without limits and without hesitation. She credits her family and early schooling with giving her the gift of unlimited love of learning. Draper entered Cleveland Public Schools in the 1950s from a home where she had grown up surrounded by books. Her mother read stories, poems, fairytales, and nursery rhymes to Draper and her siblings from the time they were very young. She recalls a teacher who once gave me Os for outstanding, saying an A wasnt good enough. A fifth grade teacher gave Draper and her fellow students poetry by Langston Hughes and Robert Frost. They read and loved Shakespeare. We didnt know we werent supposed to be able to do that in fifth grade. She gave it to us and we

At a Glance

Born 1952 in Cleveland, Ohio; daughter of Victor Mills (a hotel manager) and Catherine Mills (newspaper administrator); married Larry Draper, educator, 1971; Education: Pepperdine University, 1967-71; Miami University of Ohio, 1972-74.

Career: Cincinnati Public Schools, 1970-97.

Selected awards: Coretta Scott King Genesis award for Literature, 1995; American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults award, 1995; Ohio State Teacher of the Year, 1997; U.S. National Teacher of the Year, 1997; National Board Certification, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 1995; Board of Directors, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 1997; National Council of Negro Womens Excellence in Teaching Award, 1997; Delta Kapa Gamma Honor Society for Women Educators.

Addresses : National Teacher of the Year Program, One Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20001-1431.

loved it, Draper said. It was part of making me the teacher I am today.

Draper completed secondary school in the Cleveland public school system, taking advanced and AP course-work. She attended Pepperdine University as a National Merit Scholar, majoring in English. Upon graduation in 1971, Pepperdine offered the then-20-year-old a teaching position and opportunity to pursue a masters degree. She declined, returning instead to Ohio where she married and assumed a teaching position in Cincinnati Public Schools where she still spends each day on the educational frontline. Draper knew even then that teaching at the high school, not the university level, was where she belonged.

The Draper Paper

In the classroom Draper soon became known among students as a challenging and no-nonsense educator likely to recite selections from Canterbury Tales from memory or launch into discussion of issue-laden contemporary books. Nearly half her senior English students have gone on to become teachers themselves. As an educator who sees joy and challenge as partners in the learning process, Draper looked for ways to capture and challenge her senior students, wanting them to stride away from high school with a sense of confidence and accomplishment. She assigned a lengthy, demanding research paper due last quarter of her students senior year. Designed as a test and challenge of skills in writing, analysis, and research, the assignment soon was dubbed The Draper Paper. Within a few years t-shirts were designed to be doled out only to those hardy survivors of Drapers literary challenge. She once spotted a former student at the airport in London. Who else would dare to sport an I Survived the Draper Paper t-shirt? Juniors start to tremble just hearing about it, Draper said. This master-teacher is as respected as she is in demand among students at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati. She would not have it any other way.

The Teacher as Writer

Drapers first personal venture into writing came when a student handed her a writing contest application and said, Why dont you write something? The resulting short story One Small Torch was chosen from 20,000 entries as winner of the 1991 Ebony Magazine Short Story Contest. That first success was impetus for Draper to combine her love of teaching with her love of words and story as an author and poet. Her first novel, Tears of a Tiger grew out of Drapers recognition that powerful, once-timely works by authors like Dickens were missing the mark with her students. She wanted to create a contemporary book of literary quality to reach the cultural, ethnic, and daily realities of students in todays high school classrooms. Her novels main character is the drunken driver in an accident that kills his best friend. Draper encourages young writers by telling the story of rejection by 24 of 25 publishers to which Tears of a Tiger was sent. Once published, this book was affirmed as strong, vivid and ringing true in School Library Journal. It was embraced by young readers and received the 1995 American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and Coretta Scott King Genesis awards. A 1997 sequel, Forged by Fire is her second novel. Her first volume of poetry for children has been accepted by Boyds Mills Press.

Writer as Teacher

As a classroom teacher and mentor to novice educators, Draper knew that even the best contemporary titles often failed to draw young boys into the world of reading. Fewer books still were written with young African American boys in mind. Her next venture, the Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs series was written for those young readers. I know what interests kids, Draper said. I know what will catch them and make them readers in spite of themselves. In Lost in the Tunnel of Time, Ziggy and his fellow clubmates the Black Dinosaurs discover a tunnel once used as a station on the Underground Railroad. Always the teacher, Draper filled the book with history, knowing students would absorb the information effortlessly because of the strong, interesting story. I tell my students that if they learn nothing else in my class, I want them to understand that a powerful connection exists between historical and cultural events and the literary creations of the time, Draper told the Ohio Department of Education upon her selection as Ohio Teacher of the Year in January of 1997.

Teacher of the Year

Being named 1997 U.S. Teacher of the Year brought diverse facets of Sharon Drapers life and personal gifts together. As a master-teacher and mentor of other educators, Draper was an able spokesperson for her profession. As creator of fiction of interest to hard-to-reach students, Draper was an able model for high standards and innovative teaching. As a teacher by calling and vocation she was a spokesperson for the value of teachers and teaching to every child and every community.

As Teacher of the Year, Draper spoke to and on behalf of educators across the country. I was singled out, but there are thousands of teachers doing a wonderful job who receive no recognition, she said. Teachers who work all year with a class of 25 or more. At the end, every child is confident, loves school, and is ready to move on to the next grade. Does that teacher get her picture in the paper? Is he invited to speak because of an excellent job done? My privilege and challenge as Teacher of the Year is to speak for and about those teachers. The ones teaching in every school and every community who are just doing their jobs.

As spokesperson and master-educator, Draper encouraged school systems and communities to re-think the place and contribution of teachers. Teachers need affirmation and validation, Draper said. They deserve respect and support. They need space... time to think and reflect... and to learn. Draper called the teacher-student connection a spark where true education happens. We must find that spark, wherever it occurs and fan it into a flame. We need to ask ourselves where and why true education is happening and try to duplicate those conditions, increasing the probability of its happening again and again.

Ready, Set, Goal

Teachers and students in every state in the U.S. meet each fall for Ready, Set, Goal conferences. Evaluation of past achievement is discussed. Goals for that and subsequent years are set. What are Sharon Drapers goals? Having long-since completed a master of arts degree in English from Miami University of Ohio, Draper engages in ongoing post-graduate study. Completion of doctoral studies is in her ten-year plan. Personal and professional goals also include making time to write more poetry and add to her Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs series. Draper is interested in further literary experimentation with the goal of reaching African American students, especially boys.

Touring and meeting with teachers as Teacher of the Year has sparked a dream to find ways to mentor and encourage teachers and quality teaching. When a studentsasks, Should I teach? I say, Yes. Absolutely, Draper said. Some young people thinking teachers dont make enough money and dont get enough respect. I tell them Ill never make as much as Michael Jordan, but neither will you. I tell them if you want to make a difference in somebodys life, then go into teaching.

As a member of the National Board for Teaching Standards, Draper works with colleagues within the educational community, business and community leaders, and government to develop standards by which teachers and teaching may be quantitatively and actively measured. Professional development for teachers is a personal priority which Draper addresses by writing for professional publications and speaking to educators.

During my tenure as Teacher of the Year I have communicated the importance of creating a nurturing environment for teachers. Teaching is such a difficult, challenging job. Id like to find ways to develop planning strategies that come not from the administration down, but from teachers up. Spending 1997 touring the country as Teacher of the Year provided Draper with a forum for speakingand teaching, of course, about the critical need for cooperation and bridge-building between communities and schools. Her work with the National Board for Teaching Standards challenges educators wary of accountability outside the educational community and challenges business and government to join schools as team members rather than outside critics.

Finally, Drapers goal as education enters the twenty-first century is to spend decades, day in and day out, in school classrooms teaching students. She will measure her success in the names of students graduating with a deep sense of accomplishment and confidence in their own abilities and skill. Her legacy will be generations of students entering colleges and universities armed with a love of learningand wearing t-shirts declaring I Survived the Draper Paper.

Selected writings

Tears of a Tiger, 1994.

Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs, 1995.

Lost in the Tunnel of Time, 1996.

Forged by Fire, 1996.

Sources

Periodicals

Ebony, December 1990, p. 18.

Jet, May 12, 1997, p. 25.

News Release, Ohio Department of Education, January 9, 1997.

Ohio Teacher of the Year Program publications, Ohio SchoolNet, February 11, 1997.

Publishers Weekly, October 31, 1994, p. 64.

School Library Journal, February 1995, p. 112; August 1996, p. 142.

Other

Additional information obtained from National Teacher of the Year website: www.ccsso.org/ntoy.html

Julia Pferdehirt

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"Draper, Sharon M. 1952–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Draper, Sharon M. 1952–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/draper-sharon-m-1952

"Draper, Sharon M. 1952–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/draper-sharon-m-1952