All posts by keithmanos

About Keith Manos Keith Manos, an adjunct professor in English at Lakeland Community College and a 37 year veteran of public school teaching, has taught writing and literature to students, teachers, and writers for nearly four decades at both the secondary and post-secondary levels. With his guidance, his students’ poetry, fiction, and essays have earned them awards and recognition after being accepted for publication in local and national magazines. In 2000, Keith was honored as Ohio’s English Teacher of the Year by the Ohio Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts, was named Who’s Who of American High School Teachers in 2005, and was inducted into the National Honor Roll of Outstanding American Teachers in 2006. In 1993 Keith earned a Master's Degree in English (Creative Writing) from Cleveland State University. He has a Bachelor of Science from Miami University (OH) where he was the winner of the Greer-Hepburn Award for Creative Writing, and as a member of the Ohio Education Association, Keith is committed to teaching English. In addition, he serves on the editorial boards of Greenwood Publications and Momentum Media Sports Publications, and his skill as a teacher of writing has enabled him to serve as an editor of various educational newsletters and student publications. He has also conducted many in-service seminars for writers, teachers, and coaches at Lake Erie College, Notre Dame College, and Lakeland Community College. A writer himself, Keith has published eleven books to date and is the author of many articles directed towards teachers and coaches which have appeared in national publications like Scholastic Coach, Wesleyan Advocate, School Library Journal, Teacher Magazine, Strategies, Accent, Athletic Management, Athletic Business, Lutheran Journal, and Wrestling USA, among others. His books Wrestling Coaches Survival Guide (1995) and Writing Smarter (1998) were published by a Prentice Hall, and Coaches Choice published four more books, including 101 Ways to Motivate Athletes. Black Rose Writing published his debut novel My Last Year of Life (in School) in the fall of 2015. Keith is also a speaker for civic organizations, athletic teams, and awards programs in the Cleveland area when he isn't spending time with his wife and three children. He lives in Willoughby.

Quirky Backgrounds of Ohio Writers

Exposing Ohio’s Great Writers

Did you know that Columbus native R. L. Stine’s books have outsold even Stephen King and J.K. Rowling?  That Cleveland writer Les Roberts was once the head writer for the Hollywood Squares?  Or that Nikki Giovanni, who grew up in Cincinnati, was once a finalist for a Grammy Award?  In fact, many of Ohio’s most famous writers have accomplishments and histories that remain unknown to even their most devoted readers.

There have been several firsts for Ohio writers. Akron native Rita Dove, for example, was the first African-American and the youngest ever Poet Laureate of the United States. When she was hired by Princeton University, Toni Morrison, originally from Lorain, became the first black woman writer to hold a named chair at an Ivy League University.  Accepting the position, Morrison said, “I take teaching as seriously as I do my writing.”  Morrison was also the first black woman (and the last American) to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature (1993).

Les Roberts, who grew up in Illinois but now writes in Cleveland,won the very first “Best First Private Eye Novel Contest” for his book An Infinite Number of Monkeys, and according to the Guinness Book of World Records, R.L. Stine is the world’s best-selling children’s author.

Higher education has certainly dominated many Ohio writers’ lives. Andre Norton (Alice Mary Norton from Cleveland) attended Western Reserve University (1930-1932) preparing first for a career as a librarian.  Nikki Giovanni graduated with honors from Fisk University in 1968 and since then has received 25 honorary degrees.  Dove won a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Germany at the University of Tubingen before joining the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa and earning a Masters’ Degree in 1977.  Toledoan P.J. O’Rourke attended Miami (OH) University, majoring in English, and then went on to Johns Hopkinswhere he earned an M.A. in English.

Both Stine and Harlan Ellison, another Cleveland native, attended The Ohio State University, although Ellison was kicked out for hitting one of his professors. Roberts attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and Roosevelt University (1954–1956), and Xenia native Arthur Schlesinger graduated from Harvard.  Finally, Ohio State University professor Lee Abbott seems to emerge as the most prominent educator as he has taughtat Colorado College, Washington University, Rice University, Case Western Reserve University, and The Ohio State University.

Writing was not always these writers’ only professional interest.  Gloria Steinem, who was born in Toledo, worked as a Playboy bunny in New York. Lee Abbott aspired to be a professional golfer, and Toni Morrisonhoped one day to become a ballerina.  Les Roberts was once a Hollywood actor, young adult author Sharon Draper was a teacher in Cincinnati, and Cleveland native Antwone Fisher worked as a corrections officer with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Harlan Ellison has the most dramatic series of non-writing jobs.  He has worked as a tuna fishermannear Galveston, Texas; a crop-picker in Louisiana; a truck driver in North Carolina; along with being a short order cook, cab driver, book salesman, door-to-doorbrush salesman, and even an actor at the Cleveland Playhouse as a youth.

Unfortunately, there has been early trauma for some Ohio writers. Gloria Steinem lived as a child with a mother who was institutionalized in a sanatorium periodically after suffering a nervous breakdown that left her an invalid and, at times, violent. In addition, after Steinem’s parents divorced, her father left them without any financial support.  This, coupled with the way Steinem observed doctors treat her mother’s illness, had a profound effect on her view of social injustices.

Ellison’s brief tenure at Ohio State Universitywas cut short after he was expelled for hitting a professor who had, Ellison says, criticized his skill as a writer.

Antwone Fisher probably experienced the most personal troubles, after, having been born in an Ohio prison, he lived through the murder of his father, abuse by a foster family, reform school, and homelessness. Fisher says, “I think back upon a childhood full of longing for belonging, and see my life now as what I have created out of my dreams. An image comes to mind of Mrs. Brown at the orphanage in Cleveland, me sitting at her side, telling her, ‘you’ll read about me someday.’ I was definitely dreaming then with no evidence of that ever being possible, I clung to that preposterous vision and with the force of those dreams willed it and made it happen. Not because I needed to be famous, but because I needed a world that made me feel uninvited to be wrong. So I imagined myself free, I imagined myself loved, I imagined myself … as somebody.”

Indeed, we can learn much about writing from these Ohio authors.  Stine says, “When I write, I try to think back to what I was afraid of or what was scary to me, and try to put those feelings into books.”  Abbott claims, “I don’t write to instruct anybody about anything. I’ve got nothing to tell people that they didn’t already know by the time they got to be fourteen. There’s really nothing new for me to teach people. I want people to be moved — to have on the page what I’ve got between my ears somehow as I subordinate myself to these people that seem to have galvanized my imagination.” Abbott likens himself to a “guy who’s in the bar, and it’s fifteen minutes until closing time, and he’s decided that he’s just going to cut to the quick with the story about the world as he knows it.”

Many Ohio writers got their start as children. Stine began writing fiction at age 9 when he discovered a typewriter in the attic and refused to play outside, preferring to type stories indoors instead.  Nortonbegan her literary career by not only editing her high school newspaper but also writing her first novel while still in her teens.  Clevelander Sharon Draper claims that in elementary school, “I inhaled books and knowledge” by reading almost every book in her elementary school library.

Beyond their best-selling books, Ohio’s writers’ achievements are special. Pulitzer prizes have gone to Dove (Poetry, 1987), Morrison (Fiction, 1988), and Schlesinger (Nonfiction, 1946, 1965). Mademoiselle Magazine, The LadiesHome Journal, and Ebony Magazinehave all honored Nikki Giovanni as theirWoman of the Year, over two dozen cities have awarded her Keys, and an admiring scientisteven named a new bat species after her.  Gloria Steinem has received an Emmy citation along with the Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. R.L. Stine is a three-time winner of the Nickelodeon’s Kid Choice Award, and Sharon Draper was the National Teacher of the Year in 1997.  The Science Fiction Writers Association named their prestigious award for young adult fiction the Andre Norton Award.

Ohio’s writers are a creative group who have either lived or grew up in the state’s major cities.  Their talents stretch beyond their writing:  Just listen to former high school majorette Rita Dove play the cello or to Nikki Giovanni read her poetry with gospel music as a background (She has received the Best Spoken Word Album given by the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers).Harlan Ellison did a voice-over for a Scooby Doo episode, and P.J. O’Rourke is a prominent political analyst.  Lee Abbott, who grew up in the Southwest but now calls Columbus home, may summarize the diverse and eclectic nature of Ohio’s writers best when he admits:“I just don’t understand anything about that part of the world [Ohio]. It’s too green and too wet, and there are no vistas. I can’t understand what the people are saying half the time. It just seems like an alien culture.”

My Last Year of Life (in School)

Debut Novel Exposes the Drama Inside America’s Schools Manos’s “Last Year of Life (in School)” Dramatizes the Dysfunctional Status of Public Education

This debut novel is a semi-autobiographical story told in a diary/epistolary format about teacher Ethan Miller during his last year of teaching. Teachers, school administrators, and parents, especially those who have children attending public schools, will be enthralled by My Last Year of Life (in School) and gain an understanding of the dramatic and sometimes disturbing events that happen in a public high school, emerging much like a popular reality television program since it also involves the issues and tragedies that educators confronted all over the country during the 2012-2013 school year, including the Chicago teachers’ strike, the Atlanta cheating scandal, and the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

Praise for My Last Year of Life (in School):

“Surprising and honest, Keith Manos gives us a behind-the-scenes look at a teacher’s last year in a school he once loved.” – Sarah Willis (author of Some Things That Stay and A Good Distance)

“I could really relate to the characters and events in Keith’s novel. It was almost like he was describing my own school day. As I read, I found myself at times nodding my head, laughing out loud, or sighing with concern. I’m starting to wonder what my last year of teaching will be like.” [Sarah Kelly – Special Education teacher, Hyman G. Rickover Naval Academy, Chicago, Illinois]

“The truth is out. Ethan Miller (Manos’s alter ego in the classroom) exposes what a typical public school teacher deals with on a daily basis. I am a retired teacher with 30 years experience in the classroom and could identify with every page. Most people hear stories about the public school classroom and sympathize with teachers but to read it page after page makes the truth almost too real. This is a must read for any administrator, parent, and teacher. My Last Year of Life would be an interesting text in an education class to analyze Ethan Miller’s handling of the many conflicts and to discuss alternate actions or agree on what he decided to do in the heat of the moment. I laughed, I shook my head in frustration and understanding, and I cried at the end (almost).” [John Korhlrieser – retired math teacher, Fairfax County Schools, VA]

“I really enjoyed reading Keith’s novel, and I think it’s gutsy of him to portray a public school teacher’s daily life as it truly is. My Last Year of Life (in School) shows what’s sad, what’s funny, and what’s tragic about teaching today, and I wonder how many other schools across this country are like Ethan Miller’s Bayview High School.” [Andrea Manes – retired science teacher, Richmond Heights Secondary School, OH]

As a result of its introspective tone and unique exploration of a teacher’s plight in today’s teaching climate, anyone wishing to be a part of the national conversation regarding education in America will connect with Keith Manos’ book, My Last Year of Life (in School).  This book positions its readers to observe the skill and grit needed to excel as a teacher.   In addition, it leaves all parents, educators, and citizens with a burning question: Am I paying enough attention to the schools in my community?  [J.D. Uebler – Culver Academies, Senior instructor and Humanities Department Chair]

Teaching College Credit Plus

College Credit Plus program prompts excitement, concerns

Keith Manos teaches English Composition 1 through the College Credit Plus program at Riverside High School in Painesville Township on Nov. 2. Tawana Roberts — The News-Herald

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By Tawana Roberts, The News-Herald

POSTED: 11/06/17, 7:57 PM EST

While there are many benefits to students receiving college credit prior to graduating from high school, there are some concerns.

According to the Ohio Department of Higher Education, the College Credit Plus program is open to any Ohio student in seventh through 12th grade, which means a 12-year-old could take courses at any Ohio public or participating college.

“That’s when it gets challenging,” said Riverside Guidance Director Scott Bailis. “What we have found here is even when our ninth-, 10th-, 11th- and 12th- graders taking English composition, who have different backgrounds in writing, all of a sudden come together, the ninth- and 10th-graders who did not have as much writing experience struggled more. The instructor could not just stop and say, ‘I have to bring these students up to speed’, they have to just keep going.”

Keith Manos, who teaches CCP English Composition 1 at Riverside, said he treats every student the same.“I treat them like college students, because they are college students,” said Manos, who is also an adjunct professor in English at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland.

Despite questions about a student’s ability to complete advanced work, high schools are not allowed to place any restrictions on student participation in College Credit Plus. The ODHE said each institution of higher education sets its own standards for measuring students’ college-readiness.

However, Bailis said he tries to provide students and parents with as much information as he can to help them make an informed decision. “When we have a College Credit Plus meeting and introduce the program, I talk to them about the social and maturity side of things,” he said. “Most ninth-graders don’t have the writing background and most are just not emotionally ready for the rigors of college-level English class. We stress at our meeting — don’t just be in a hurry to accumulate college credits. I know they’re free and it’s a great program, but it is a maturity component of it.”

CCP students are expected to be accountable, so being mature is essential.

Manos and Bailis emphasized that because of the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, CCP students’ grades and progress are not shared with parents or guidance counselors.

Bailis said this is a challenge for the guidance department, because counselors do not know if a student is on-track to graduation until after they receive the final grades.“It’s hard to tell a student that they will not graduate because they did not pass a CCP course that they needed to meet graduation requirements,” he said.

Meanwhile as more students are signing up for CCP, there may be fewer students in advanced placement classes.“It definitely hurts the AP program,” Bailis said. “There are a lot of advantages to the AP program. Colleges really like it because of the consistency and I see a lot of our top students sticking to AP.”

While the future of CCP and AP are unclear, both programs support college readiness. Overall, parents, students and educators find them advantageous.