"Since she was a student in the ES-M school district during the 60s and 70s, we decided to write a book blending Janine's memories of school as a student with my stories as principal to show an elementary school from both sides of the desk," Kinsella said.
A little boy named Jimmy
"Our book is dedicated to a student at Minoa Elementary who touched the lives of all who met him -- Jimmy DeMarco," Kinsella said. "He was 6 years old when he entered Minoa Elementary in the 1960s."
Jimmy had cystic fibrosis -- a genetic disorder that affects the lungs and digestive system and makes kids who have it more vulnerable to repeated lung infections. During that era, children with special needs weren't accepted in regular schools. It wasn't until 1975, Kinsella said, when Congress passed an education law that let children with disabilities attend public schools.
However, the off timing didn't stop Jimmy from obtaining his dream, and he eventually became the first student in Minoa with a disability to attend a "big school."
The following book excerpt explains what occurred.
In the summer of 1966, Mae Ryan tutored Jimmy at home as a favor to his mother. Mae had fallen in love with the trusting little blond-haired boy. She was helping him with some math problems one day when he began asking questions:
"Mrs. Ryan, am I as good a student as the kids in your class?"
"You're better than most."
"Do you like teaching me?"
"Jimmy, you know I do." She put her arm around the frail, little body and gave him a hug. "I love teaching you."
Jimmy stared down at his paper and twirled his pencil. Mae waited patiently, wondering what was coming next. Finally, Jimmy looked up and asked quietly, "Mrs. Ryan, if I'm as good a student as your other children and you love teaching me, why can't I go to your school and be in your class?"