Terry Lee Marzell appears at Corona Book-a-Paloosa event

DSC00045I was so excited to be invited to participate in this year’s annual Book-a-Paloosa event at the Corona Public Library in Corona, California, last Tuesday, June 9. Here I am at my local author booth with copies of my books, Chalkboard Champions and Chalkboard Heroes.

The event was jam-packed with lively music, good food, exciting dances, home-made crafts, and, of course, other local authors. The public library staff was promoting their summer reading program, Read to the Rhythm. What a wonderful way to start a summer vacation!

Meet the first Black woman to join the Screen Actors’ Guild: Teacher Mary Elizabeth Vroman

220px-Jet_Vroman_October_13_1955_coverMany talented educators can also claim fame as accomplished authors. This is true of Mary Elizabeth Vroman, an elementary school teacher who was also the author of several books and short stories, including “See How They Run,” an award-winning short story that became the basis for a movie entitled Bright Road.

Mary was born circa 1924 in Buffalo, New York, and was raised in Antigua in the British West Indies. Like three generations of women educators in her family before her, Mary attended Alabama State Teachers College, now known as Alabama State University, in Montgomery, Alabama, where she graduated in 1949. After her graduation, Mary accepted her first teaching position at an elementary school in rural Alabama. She later taught in Chicago and New York. Her teaching career spanned twenty years.

Mary published her first short story, “See How They Run,” in the June, 1951, issue of Ladies’ Home Journal. The story, based on her experiences in the classroom, generated five hundred enthusiastic letters from readers. Like most of her works, the story depicted the challenges of poverty and disadvantage. The plot revolves around a young, idealistic teacher who encourages her students to escape their poverty through education, and compares the forty-three third graders in the story to the blind mice in the familiar children’s nursery rhyme. Mary describes the teacher’s struggle to provide academic, financial, and emotional support for her students and their families so that they can achieve success. The piece earned the coveted Christopher Award in 1952 for its humanitarian quality. It was reprinted in the July, 1952, issue of Ebony.

Next, Mary served as a technical adviser and assistant screenwriter for the 1953 film version of the story. The title of the piece was changed to Bright Road, and starred Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte. Mary’s work on the film earned her admission to the Screen Actors Guild; she was their first African American woman member.

Vroman’s “See How They Run” tells the story of a young, idealistic teacher encouraging her students to escape from their impoverished environment through education. Comparing the 43 third graders in the story to the blind mice in the familiar nursery rhyme, Vroman details the teacher’s struggle to provide academic, financial, and emotional support for them and their families so that they can achieve success was published in the Ladies’ Home Journal in June, 1951. The piece earned the 1952 Christopher Award, and it was subsequently made into a 1953 film entitled Bright Road. Her work on the film earned her admittance to the Screen Writers Guild, the first African American woman to become a member of the distinguished organization.

Mary was married to Brooklyn dentist Dr. Oliver M. Harper. Sadly, Mary Elizabeth Vroman passed away on April 29, 1967, from complications following surgery. She was only 42 years old.

Roddy Lee: High school teacher, coach, and Olympic athlete

9621f166a4fe0cfccc89befff881d2a6In American history there are many examples of talented athletes who later became successful teachers and coaches. One such example is Roderick (Roddy) Lee, a retired high school business teacher and coach who represented the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the 1972 Munich Olympic games.

Roddy was born in the United States, but his family originally came from Taiwan. He grew up in Kensington, Contra Costa County, California, where he attended Kensington Hilltop Elementary, Portola Junior High, and nearby El Cerrito High School. This gifted athlete began running track while a student at El Cerrito. As a high school athlete, “I liked the hurdles best,” he once said. “It was a little more exciting and the races were a little faster.”

Following his high school graduation in 1967, Roddy enrolled in UC Berkeley, where he was a business major and member of the track team. In 1970, he was approached by a Taiwanese official who invited him to compete for Taiwan at the Asian Games in Bangkok. At the time, Roddy, whose Chinese name is Lee Chung-Ping, had dual citizenship with the United States and the Republic of China. Roddy agreed to represent Taiwan. “I hit a hurdle in the highs — I was the favorite there going in,” he said. “In the intermediates, I lost on a lean. But that’s how it goes. I can say that now.” Despite this setback, by the time the games were over, Roddy had won two silver medals.

Roddy also represented Taiwan in the 1972 Olympics, finishing 35th overall in the 110 hurdles. “There were only four guys on the track team,” Roddy said. “A long jumper, a triple jumper, a sprinter, and me. And that was our relay team.” The 1972 Olympics are best remembered for the Palestinian terrorist attack that left eleven Israeli athletes and coaches dead. The games were halted for one day for a memorial service. The rest of the Taiwanese team returned home on its scheduled flight. The one-day delay meant that Roddy was the last Taiwanese athlete left in Munich to carry the national flag for the closing ceremonies.

During his senior year of college, Roddy decided to become a track coach. He earned his degree and teaching credential, then coached track at Kennedy High School for ten years. Then Roddy transferred to his alma mater, El Cerrito High School, where he coached track and golf, taught computer science and physical education, and led his school’s IT team until his retirement.

In his retirement, Roddy is still very much a part of his school. He is actively working on the El Cerrito High School Archiving Project, an effort to preserve the school’s history. The effort is fitting and proper, because he is part of that history. Lee holds a spot in the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

Terry Lee Marzell to appear at Corona Public Library’s Bookapalooza event

198276_10150956934301661_1972813844_nGreetings, everyone! I just wanted to let you know that I will be participating in a local authors showcase at the Corona Public Library in Corona, CA, on Tuesday, June 9, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. This event, which the Corona Library is calling Bookapaloosa, is intended to kick off their summer reading program, entitled Read to the Rhythm. For this event, the public library has arranged a craft fair, free hot dogs for the first 250 people, music, and a petting zoo. I’ll be there with both my books, Chalkboard Champions and Chalkboard Heroes, available for sale and signing.

The library is located at 650 S. Main Street. It’s a wonderful community library, featuring beautiful architecture and an extensive collection. Come on over on June 9, and be sure to seek out my booth when you get there!

To view the Corona library’s informational flyer, simply click on this link: Bookapalooza flyer