Local teacher Terance Shipman pens book series for children By Beth Slaughter Sexton


CONYERS — Score one for Team Shipman. The first book by Dr. Terance Shipman has been released — thanks to help from his entourage of family and friends. The Conyers Memorial Middle School teacher has put together a group he calls Team Shipman to make sure the 12- to 14-book series he is writing gets edited, illustrated, printed, publicized and distributed to his present and future fans. This week Team Shipman is putting the final touches on book two, which is scheduled for release next month.

Book number one has already drawn favorable attention with its author being nominated for a 2018 Author Academy Award. “Mr. Shipman’s Kindergarten Chronicles: December Celebrations” came out just before Christmas and almost right away it began garnering awards and recognition, including being nominated for a Reader’s Choice Award for TCK Publishing; Best Children’s Hanukkah and Christmas Books: Holiday Books for Children of Interfaith Families as well as receiving accolades from other organizations that target books written for kindergarten students.

For 11 years, Shipman taught kindergarten and says his memories from those days always make him smile. He has taken many of those memories and special moments and used them to craft a story about kindergarten children getting ready for the Christmas holidays. Throughout this colorfully illustrated 42-page book, Shipman teaches the children about multi-cultural celebrations from Christmas to Hanukkah to Kwanzaa.

Banicia, the little girl in the story, was inspired by Shipman’s own daughter, Teryn, who is now 20 years old. Other family members show up on the pages of “Mr. Shipman’s Kindergarten Chronicles,” as well. The author is the teacher in the book, of course, and he named the fictional school after his father’s last name of Laster. A rendering of Shipman’s mother shows up on the pages of the book with a cake she made for the Christmas party.

The book takes readers back to their own kindergarten years or those of their children. The story builds with excitement as the students enjoy special activities and events during the month of December, as told by Banicia to her little brother Dewayne.

As a self publisher, Shipman had to audition artists to create the illustrations for his book and as soon as he saw the work of Milan Ristic of Serbia, he knew he had his artist.

“I just knew when I saw his work, he was the one,” Shipman said. “I wanted a classic look…We’ve just communicated through email. We send pictures back and forth. He just had a baby. Sooner or later we’re all going to FaceTime. Three or five books in, I might buy a ticket to over there.”

But meanwhile, the author and the illustrator work together with the Team Shipman crew to complete each book. At present, Shipman is poring over the mock-up of his second book, “The First Day of School,” which centers around the excitement and emotion of a student’s first day of kindergarten.

“We had to make about six changes,” he said. “We went through it and said we needed three more pages from the illustrator. We’re all under the gun. We just have to do it.” The release date for “The First Day of School” is July 19.

As with the first book, members of Team Shipman are at the ready for the second one. The audiobooks and CDs are narrated by Dr. Cheryl Anderson, the librarian and media specialist at Memorial Middle School. Prudence Williams, a science teacher at Edwards Middle School and Shipman’s girlfriend edits the books, which also have a theme song composed by Barbara Yancy, the music teacher at Honey Creek Elementary. Team Shipman paraphernalia from T-shirts to tumblers have been designed by Memorial Middle School teacher Keisha Johnson of Designs by Suzie. Special treats for Team Shipman functions are prepared by Memorial Middle School teacher Carmean Ridley of The Goods Gourmet Desserts.

Shipman’s sons also played major roles in getting the first book ready. Je’rontai, 25, got the book uploaded while Khalil, 17, did the website and the audio books. Son Zaire, 19, shot and directed the video on Shipman’s online author’s page.“My three sons, daughter, mother and other family members have all contributed to the success of the book series,” Shipman said. “It has been one big team effort.”

The team concept comes naturally to Shipman, the son of the late coach Tiny Laster, whom his son calls a pioneer in bringing women’s sports to the forefront. Laster coached women’s basketball, softball and volleyball at both Tuskegee University and Hampton University and is in the Hall of Fame at Tuskegee.

Laster passed away about 10 years ago, but Shipman’s mother Cloutil Davis still lives nearby. The author said both parents had a “strong impact” on him and encouraged him to pursue his passion for teaching. He received his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Tuskegee University in 1992, followed by his master’s degree in elementary education from Hampton University in Virginia in 1994.

For the next 13 years, Shipman was an elementary teacher in the Atlanta Public School System, with most of those years spent teaching kindergarten. In 2009, he earned his education specialist degree from the University of West Georgia in administration supervision and then completed his doctoral degree at Clark Atlanta University in 2013. Since completing his final degree, Shipman has worked with middle school and high school students.

He estimates he has taught more than 2,000 children in his 25-year teaching career thus far. Shipman stays in touch with many of those former students and their parents, as well as coworkers and even has a Facebook group called Team Shipman where former students share milestones in their life, such as marriages and the births of their children. Even after 25 years in the classroom, Shipman says he still loves what he does and being able to influence a child.

“What inspires me the most is the act of giving,” he said. “Teaching is an art I think. To be able to give something to somebody and see them take it and learn it, that’s wonderful. The biggest pleasure in life. There’s nothing like it when you see somebody learn. The 11 years I taught kindergarten, the number one thing every year that always made me feel good is to hear a child read for the first time. Now that’s the ultimate …That’s something you live for every year.”

Shipman actually began teaching when he was a junior in high school. It was photography class and by the time he was a junior, there was nothing else the teachers could teach this star photography student, so they began having him teach his fellow class members. He loved it, and when it came time to choose a major in college, he said he wanted one that would make the biggest impact on the lives of others, so he knew it was teaching.

He says his goal each school year is to give the students an educational experience they will never forget. When he taught kindergarten, he said he was the child’s parent, teacher and counselor all rolled into one. He worked to bring in real-life experiences that children would be able to understand.

Now that he is teaching middle school, Shipman said he knows not every child is going to go to college, so he teaches his students that they all have to continue learning and reading books. He tells them they have to “survive in this life.”

“Part of what I try to do is make students life-long learners whether they go to college or not,” he added.

He plans to share those messages and many more in the book series he is now writing. Shipman has already finished five of the books in what he expects will be a series of 12 to 14 books total. His next book, “The First Day of School” will feature about 40 of his former students showing their “then” and “now” photos. This book will be about 60 pages, he said, adding that while some children might just enjoy looking at the pictures and illustrations, he expects adults will especially enjoy reading the stories. His books are presented in all formats and are available through www.teranceshipman.com, as well as amazon.com.

For his first book, Shipman has been nominated for an award through The Author Academy Awards and he invites those who enjoy the book to go to www.authoracademyawards.com and vote for him through July 31. “Mr. Shipman’s Kindergarten Chronicles: December Celebrations” can be voted for in the favorite children’s book category. His book has also been submitted for a Coretta Scott King Award, but the winners will not be announced until the end of the year. “That’s one I’d really like to win,” he said.

When not working on his book projects, Shipman enjoys serving as an elder at his church, Oakhurst Presbyterian in Decatur. He has been asked to deliver the Sunday message on July 29 and talk about his faith in God. He also enjoys spending time with his children and going to movies. In fact, he and his sons have a video show they do on a regular basis, which can be seen on YouTube and is called Shipman and Shipman At the Movies. Sometimes it’s all the sons or one or two as he said they often switch the line up. But they talk about movies they have seen and if they like a movie, they give what they call a “Shipman Shake.”

Team Shipman continues to grow with fans reading the books, watching the video shows about movies and the podcast shows called Mr. Shipman’s Class, which are available along with the author’s blog on his web page, in addition to keeping up with Shipman on social media. In his new role as published author, it seems the teacher is applying what he tries to do each year for the students in his classroom: “Give them something they’ll never forget.”

Beth Slaughter Sexton is a freelance writer based in Walton County. Contact her at bethslaughtersexton@gmail.com.

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