Great Grad: Diana Jenkins ’84
Children’s Author Uses Humor to Teach Values – Award-winning author Diana Jenkins ’84 said she “knew something had changed” when “they stopped blushing.”
As a special education teacher, Jenkins, who earned a reading specialist master’s degree from UALR, said she “started running into students who didn’t seem to understand right and wrong. And they weren’t at all embarrassed to be caught cheating and lying or doing anything wrong. I knew I had to do something about that.”
The UALR alumna persisted to teach her students about values, and when she retired to concentrate on her second career, writing for children, Jenkins kept the same focus. “I’m still a teacher, but now I use my stories and plays to teach kids about what matters.”
Her more than 400 magazine stories and comic strips for children and teens have been published in “Highlights for Children,” “Pockets,” “My Friend,” “Encounter,” “Brio,” and other magazines. Following two previous books of children’s plays, Jenkins’ new book, “All Year Long: Funny Readers Theatre for Life’s Special Times,” presents funny plays about children making moral choices in difficult situations. The plays in her latest book, which can be found at http://www.teacherideaspress.com/, entertain while developing themes of honesty, respect, kindness, generosity, and other values.
“There’s only one real story,” says Jenkins. “And that’s right versus wrong, so it’s what I always write about.” To avoid “preachiness,” she uses a lot of humor in her work. “They’ll really consider the lesson you’re trying to get across if you don’t hit them over the head with it.” She believes that acting out moral dilemmas clarifies right and wrong for children and helps them make good choices.
“I guess it’s once a teacher, always a teacher,” laughs Jenkins. She hopes to continue to touch children’s lives with her writing for years to come. For this busy writer, it just seems like the right thing to do.