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New Horizons

Ink, Sweat, and Tears

How one Iowa retiree got her thoughts on education into print.

In 2001, Jacquie McTaggart was a veteran teacher with 42 years of experience. Well respected and at the top of her game, she “wanted to go out on top.”

But the idea of retirement overwhelmed her with dread. Once the Independence, Iowa, educator stepped out of the classroom, she had no idea what to do next.

That changed one day after a heated discussion with colleagues about a controversial educational law. Another teacher suggested McTaggart write a book that would benefit parents and students. She took up the idea, envisioning a practical book filled with tips and practices parents could use to positively affect their child’s education.

McTaggart started collecting material by writing a column on parenting issues in the local newspaper. After five years at the Bulletin Journal, McTaggart believed she had gathered enough material to begin. She breezed through chapters on topics ranging from how to develop independence in young children to how to engage disinterested readers.

“Although I knew next to nothing about query letters, proposals, agents, editors, publishers, or contracts, I forged ahead,” she says. “I was on a mission and I refused to be deterred by something as minor as ignorance.”

Twenty-eight rejection letters from agents and publishers would be enough to discourage anyone, and McTaggart admits she was close to calling it quits. But she couldn’t stop thinking about the advice she frequently gave her students: Never give up on your dreams. “Many times I begged my students not to give up because there was probably a rainbow hiding behind the clouds. If that advice was good enough for kids, it was good enough for me,” she says.

Eventually, McTaggart got her rainbow: In January 2004, From the Teacher’s Desk was finally published. Since then, McTaggart has launched an interactive teacher-to-parent Web site based on the book that includes topics of the day and a visitor’s corner (

McTaggart’s writing career is still soaring; her articles have been published in parenting publications, magazines, and academic journals. McTaggart currently serves on the Library Board of Directors in Iowa. When not teaching a community college writing class, she continues to substitute teach at East Elementary.

“The kids always seem thrilled to see me and that makes me feel good.” In addition to her work in Iowa, McTaggart also lectures at International Reading Association conferences across the country.

And how does McTaggart feel about her busy schedule since retiring? “Everything I do now is enjoyable because I think it makes a positive difference,” she says.

-Jazzy Wright

About Jacquie’s book: From the Teacher’s Desk (Paperback), 264 pp, $18.95. Visit to order.

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