“Scribbles” is a young girl in a special education inclusion setting who would rather draw than tackle math.
She’s happiest when drawing frogs, but with the help of Mrs. Sunshine, her teacher, they end up finding a strategy that helps her succeed in school.
Her story, chronicled in the book, “Scribbles,” was written and illustrated by Great Bridge resident Theresa Mackiewicz, a military spouse and special education teacher.
“I wrote this to give students in special education a voice,” Mackiewicz said. “There’s so much written about them but nothing where they’re doing the talking.”
Mackiewicz, 41, based her literary character Mrs. Sunshine on herself. She has spent many years helping special education students and even overcame her own obstacles to learning.
“I had double vision in my left eye and hid it for 30 years before finally getting it fixed,” she said. “I read slower because reading comprehension was very difficult, but I did extra work and kept at it.”
Mackiewicz earned a bachelor’s degree in special education and sociology from Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.
Afterward, she taught special education at Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School in Easton, Massachusetts.
While there, she taught and befriended many students with learning difficulties. Mackiewicz developed strategies to effectively teach students with a variety of learning challenges. She didn’t know then that several of her students would inspire characters in “Scribbles.”
“You can do this,” Mackiewicz would tell her students. “You can achieve your dreams.”
Debbie Lafond, who taught with Mackiewicz, said her colleague was gifted with developing classroom strategies.
“In my 17 years of teaching, she is hands-down one of the best that I ever worked with,” Lafond said. “She has a wonderful way of connecting with the kids and encouraging them to not give up.”
Mackiewicz insists that teaching and speaking for special education students who learn outside the standard pattern is her mission.
“I guess I always wanted to give back, even from a young age, so teaching special education helped fulfill that dream,” she said. “And I’ve sat in their seat and experienced some difficulties learning.”
Writing, however, was never a difficult task for Mackiewicz.
She wrote as a child, and in 1996 wrote again while taking a children’s literature class. She not only wrote it but also illustrated a children’s book.
“I was told I should try to get it published,” she said.
Mackiewicz also did other things. She designed a collaborative education program and at one point thought about becoming a personal trainer.
While recovering from an injury, she started writing again and “Scribbles” was born.
“’Scribbles’ is pretty much a day in my life teaching special education,” Mackiewicz said. “I realized that I had to write for these children.”
By January 2017, she had already started shopping for a publisher.
“My book went everywhere, even London,” Mackiewicz said. “And I got replies that said ‘It’s great, however …’ ”
Her husband, Benedict Mackiewicz III, who is in the Coast Guard, knew someone at work who had been published.
She submitted “Scribbles” on a Friday to Mascot Books, located in Washington, D.C.
She got a call the following Monday.
“They wanted to publish my book,” Mackiewicz said.
Since then, the book, which is written and illustrated by Mackiewicz, was released June 6. She has made the rounds locally at a number of book signings
Upcoming book signings include Starbucks, 249 Hanbury Road, Suite 100, in Chesapeake, every second Tuesday of the month.
Monica Henderson-Carpenter, a friend of Mackiewicz from Chesapeake, recalled the two of them sitting outside Taekwondo classes while waiting for their children.
“I’m not surprised by her writing a book,” Henderson-Carpenter said. “She is so enthusiastic about everything she does.”
“She would sit there waiting and cut out shapes from construction paper,” added Henderson-Carpenter. “It turns out she was using those to illustrate her book.”
Mackiewicz is planning to publish more books. Some are already written.
“I just want to go coast to coast getting the word out that we can help these kids succeed and even develop a love for learning,” she said.