“Just a Teacher” novel celebrates the lives of teachers

Just a Teacher book cover
A novel that is part mystery, part romance, and all heart.

Former National Biology Teacher of the Year Jim David is the inspiration for and co-author of this lively novel loosely based on his 27-year career as a secondary math/science teacher and supervisor in Flagstaff.

Just a Teacher was co-written by David (founder of Flagstaff’s Frances Short Pond and Willow Bend Environmental Education Center) with prize-winning writer and educator Michael Fillerup. Soulstice co-founder Julie Hammonds edited the book, and Soulstice published it in 2020. By agreement with Fillerup and David, it is now available directly from the authors and via online retailers. You might also find it on the shelf at your local bookstore. It is no longer available from Soulstice Publishing. (304 pages, paperback, $14.95; ebook $9.99)

Just a Teacher follows the life and career of fictional teacher Todd Hunter. Brand new to the classroom in 1969, Hunter decides to throw out the textbook and take his bored and restive junior-high biology students outside for a hands-on science lesson. In the years that follow, the “Pond Project” will spark a passion for learning among the thousands of children who take Hunter’s class. Readers are invited to walk in the shoes of this public-school teacher, not just for a day or a week but over the course of his career.

“This story is a far cry from your typical ‘teacher inspires downtrodden students’ hero story. Part mystery, part romance, ‘Just a Teacher‘ takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride through the life and career of a public school teacher. Sometimes it’s a rocky journey… but that’s just like real life for every teacher I know.”

Jim David

David co-authored the book with fellow educator Michael Fillerup, the prizewinning author of numerous short stories, two previous novels and several children’s books. Fillerup moved to the Navajo Reservation in 1978 where he, his wife, Rebecca, and their four children lived for six years. Experiences with Navajo and Hopi students informed Fillerup’s writing of Just a Teacher. During his 34-year career in public education, Fillerup developed and supervised programs for Native American, Hispanic and other language-minority children. In addition, he designed and directed two Navajo language revitalization programs and is the founder and former director of Puente de Hozho Tri-lingual School in Flagstaff.

“We wrote this book to inform, entertain, caution, and inspire. We want so-so teachers to become good ones, good teachers to become great ones, and great teachers to stay in the business. And we want the bad ones to get out. For parents, politicians and the general public, we want to raise awareness of the myriad challenges threatening today’s teachers and, by extension, the very survival of public education in America. Finally, we hope to inspire the best and the brightest to answer the call, to pick up the mantle, to touch the future.”

Michael Fillerup

In the news…

The Arizona Daily Sun highlighted Just a Teacher in its 2020 holiday gift guide. Read it here!

The Arizona Daily Sun featured a discussion with the authors in its article “Soulstice Publishing’s Just a Teacher focuses on impact educators have on their students and communities,” on October 18, 2020. The writer called called Just a Teacher “a celebration of a teacher’s legacy” and said “Fillerup and David lay their hearts bare on the pages, imploring teachers, students and parents to not give up on the largely unappreciated and under-funded education field.”

The authors were interviewed by Peter Bruce of KAFF Legends (93.5 FM/103.5 AM) during Pete’s Community Cafe, which aired on September 18, 2020. Listen here!

Readers say…

Just a Teacher is a thrilling read for anyone who has ever been inspired by a favorite teacher or for those who have chosen to take on the challenges of the most noble of professions. It is an absolute must-read for anyone in Flagstaff who has ever fished, communed with nature, or fed the ducks and geese at Frances Short Pond. Despite its length of nearly 300 pages, I couldn’t put it down, wanting to know what happened to Jennifer, the abused student who mysteriously disappears from school without a trace. Authors Jim David and Michael Fillerup cleverly lure the reader in with the harrowing mystery that could explode and ruin Todd Hunter’s career at any moment, yet the book does not reveal its secrets until the last pages. As a result, I devoured the book in one day. I had to keep reminding myself that it is fiction. But how much? I now want to research the first 9th graders who petitioned the Flagstaff City Council in front of a packed Council audience to support their conversion of a trash dump behind the school into one of Flagstaff’s crown jewels.  –Neil Weintraub, board member, Willow Bend Environmental Education Center

Goosebumps! As a reader, I wanted to know how the story ended, yet I didn’t want it to end. I solved the problem by starting over as soon as I finished. All along, I felt the emotions Todd Hunter felt, as if I was living his life and indeed walking in his shoes as a teacher and a person. I’m not a teacher or student and I don’t have school-age children, yet I identified with him and his wife, Amy. The writing is masterful and the story is one I think many will enjoy. –Catherine Bell

In this exceptionally thoughtful, beautifully written book, Jim David and Michael Fillerup tell the harrowing tale of Todd Hunter, a new teacher who is desperately trying to navigate the world of education in a way that makes a profound impact on his students.  Throughout the course of this story, Todd shares countless successes and failures, both professionally and personally, which prove to the reader that he is more than “just a teacher.” This remarkable story will leave you feeling so many emotions: amazed, frustrated, appreciative, inspired and heartbroken…but mostly in awe of the work teachers do every single day to better the lives of their students. This is a story every teacher can relate to. Someone has finally put words to the thoughts, feelings and actions that encompass the job we love so much. –Alison Schulz

A young teacher navigates the minefield that modern education has become: inadequate funding, low pay, poorly chosen textbooks, politics, incompetent or jealous principals, under-motivated or entitled students, defensive parents, test-oriented valuations. Using his imagination, guile, native belligerence, and empathy, Mr. Hunter teaches the subjects, but also shows the students how to think and connects with and motivates them by giving them the satisfaction of accomplishment, teaching them life lessons they won’t forget. –Mary Swersey

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