The lives of a select group of Miami Springs Senior High students were enriched recently when they were treated to a visit from author Joanne Lewis.
Lewis makes her living as an attorney however she is living her dream as a writer and provided insight to the life of a published novelist. And along with that, a lot of inspiration and encouragement, for the MSSH students from both the Exceptional Student Education Department and the English Honor Society.
Investing in our students today is an investment for the future, and MSSH Special Education Teacher Ms. Renee Zayas believes that whole heartedly. That’s exactly why she brought in the multi-talented Joanne Lewis for an up close and personal experience.
Lewis’ passion is writing historical fiction and murder mysteries. She is the author of several award-winning novels including Wicked Good, The Lantern, and Forbidden Room, to name a few. She may have a talent for writing but she also has a gift for working with young people. Her law practice concentrates on family law and has provided her years of experience with children.
That understanding and familiarity with young people became very apparent as she commanded the attention in the classroom. Although small in frame, her big heart captivated the diverse classroom. Teenagers themselves have a unique gift of spotting a genuine person when they see one. The teenage sentiments were unanimous; they loved Lewis, and to prove it, they had a many questions for her to answer.
At one point, Lewis even let the students take over the class. They asked question after question, about her childhood, her writing habits, her dreams and her aspirations. Nothing was off limits. One student asked Lewis what her goals as a writer are.
“My number one goal is to be on the New York Times Bestseller lists, but that’s my superficial goal,” said Lewis. “My real, true goal is to be a great writer. I want to write fiction that really touches people; that makes them want to be better; that makes them want to change their lives. That’s my heart goal.”
Although Zayas arranged for Lewis to come speak to her students in the Exceptional Student Education Department, Zayas was quick to offer the neighboring classroom, led by Ms. Mariana Laney the opportunity as well. Laney arranged for students from the English Honor Society to participate in the unique opportunity.
Regardless of the diversities in the classroom or the personal aspirations of each student, Lewis delivered a wealth of inspiration and affirmation to each and every student. Many students admitted they shared the same love of writing.
“Cultural experiences are an essential element of education, just like reading, writing, and arithmetic. Literature, ballet and theater are all keys that unlock profound human understanding and accomplishment,” said Zayas. “We thrive to expose our students to a broad array of cultural experiences. It is my hope that this first book author visit is the beginning of a cultural renaissance for our school and our students.”
Experiencing art, culture, and literature brings many benefits to students. At the minimum, these experiences can be a positive, relaxing, escape from daily problems; but more likely, these experiences expand the horizons of the student, as he or she meets new people and visits new places, through a book or a particular piece of art. Exposing students to an array of culture, an array of art, and an array of literature will help them value people from different races, ethnic groups, and cultures. These first hand experiences also help students, at all levels, to develop critical thinking skills.
At a day an age where testing and budgeting seem to be a barricade when it comes to bringing new experiences to students, Miami Spring Senior High seems to have found a way. It takes passionate, committed, instructors like Renee Zayas and Mariana Laney, along with community members, like author Joanne Lewis, to dive in wholeheartedly to an investment; an investment in our children that will surely be good on its return.