Educator’s personal journey powers children’s storytelling

Submitted photo Donna Gingery

Local author Donna Gingery has published her first children’s book Red’s Adventures: The Egg Pie to help youth find their superpower.

Gingery, a 58-year-old educator of Prior Lake, MN, based the book on her life growing up in Selma, Ala. in the ’60s. The story follows a precocious African American girl named Red who overcomes everyday challenges with humor and creativity as she grows up under the watchful eye of her Granny.

Gingery’s goal in telling this story is to encourage kids to learn in fun ways. “I grew up my whole life with a disability I never knew I had,” she confided. “I disliked school as a child; I was just not good at it.”

During her early years, Gingery’s mother knew that her daughter was not performing on the same academic level as most of her classmates. Her mother had her tested and was informed that Gingery had a learning disorder. But the doctors or schools had nothing in place to help with her disability.

Gingery’s mother disagreed with the diagnosis at the time. She believed that her daughter’s sharp memory and communication skills did not equate to her being mentally disabled. She decided to not tell Gingery the test results. “As I grew older, though, I knew something was wrong with me,” said Gingery. “I could not perform on the same level as my sister and it was a struggle for me to read.”

Elementary, middle and high school continued to be a very steep hill for Gingery to climb. However, she pressed on. “I’m resilient, so I kept going; I graduated high school with a 1.7-grade point average [GPA],” she said.

After high school, Gingery and her mother moved to Minnesota to live with her grandmother. Gingery enrolled in a community college, known as Metro. It was there that Gingery began to find her wings.

“I loved college,” Gingery recalled. “My classmates and I worked together and helped each other out, and I was interested in what I was studying. As her interest in her studies grew, so did her GPA — she earned a 2.7 GPA, which later progress to a 4.0.

It was also during college that Gingery decided to ask her mother about the disability of which she never knew the name. “My mother and grandmother told me that I had dyslexia, and I asked my mom why she never told me.” Her mother responded, “Because I did not want you to grow up feeling bad for yourself.”

She continued, “Looking back, I’m glad my mother did not tell me. I was five years old when The Bloody Sunday occurred, and in the second grade when schools integrated. I did not need another hindrance in my life, especially for a disability that at the time that they had no treatment for.”

Gingery’s mother eventually moved back to Selma. However, Gingery decided to stay because “I just needed to be in a bigger environment.”

 After Gingery received her associate’s degree, she enrolled at the University of Minnesota where she studied the arts. “I loved the arts; I knew that’s where I was supposed to be, but it took me quite some time to get my degree,” she said.

Gingery now holds a B.A. from the University of Minnesota, a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Saint Mary’s University, and an Administration license K-12 from the University of Minnesota.

She found work as a “para” (professional educator) and began her 25-year journey working with kids with emotional disorders. Her creativity and imagination are greatly utilized when de-escalating classroom situations.

While working with children, Gingery realized that kids are lacking representation in the type of stories being told. It was this realization that inspired Red’s Adventures: The Egg Pie.

Gingery said she believes that all elementary school students will love this book and the main character because the “superpower is that she is a normal kid and every kid can relate to that.”

Gingery looks forward to writing more books to help children learn how to express and believe in themselves. When asked what she hopes people take away from her journey, she said, “God did not stop making brains when he made you.”

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