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Former teacher-turned-author puts spin on history

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published July 27, 2020

 Lynne Smyles reads from one of her Michigan History Nightmares books at a Lakeview Public Schools elementary a few years ago. She completed the final volume in 2018.

Lynne Smyles reads from one of her Michigan History Nightmares books at a Lakeview Public Schools elementary a few years ago. She completed the final volume in 2018.

File photo provided by Lakeview Public Schools

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP/ST. CLAIR SHORES — Some teachers never stop educating. Just ask Lynne Smyles.

Smyles, who retired from the profession in 2005 after teaching at Lakeview Public Schools for 27 years, completed the first of her “Michigan History Nightmares” series in 2014. There are four volumes and six books in total, with the first two volumes each containing two books.

After temporarily being a substitute teacher post-retirement and between 2010, the Clinton Township resident developed a desire to pursue writing that in a way would be engaging to youth. She said that when she was a teacher, it didn’t always bring much fulfillment teaching it out of the textbook “because it was dry.”

Instead, she decided to go back through the history curriculum to see what was being taught and devised creative ways to make the content more engaging. And the focus was to get local students to better understand the history of Michigan.

“It would be learning but in a fun way, and they’d be more apt to learn about their state,” Smyles said.

Her first volume includes the books “Trapped in the Lower Peninsula” and “A Narrow Escape in the Upper Peninsula.” A special pen and a normal day at school goes haywire as friends are thrust into an adventure and suddenly embark on a historic journey of the state’s Lower Peninsula.

The second volume, with the books “Entombed in a Hopewell Burial Mound” and “A Shocking Encounter with the Iroquois and Three Fires Native American Tribes,” takes the youthful group back into time to explore Michigan’s Native American culture, including the ancient Hopewellian mound builders, Ojibwas, Ottawas and Hurons.

Volume three, “Michigan Fur Trade … A Hare Raising Adventure,” is Halloween-centric and leads the kids into contact with pirates, bears and wild rapids. Volume four, “How Michigan Became a State—Lessons From Beyond the Grave,” is the last installment published in 2018 and transports students through mysterious USB ports and catapults them back into time to deal with ghosts, quicksand and even cannonballs. They need to find a way home.

Smyles took her books to different school assemblies and craft shows. She even tweaked her presentations to make them more interactive.

After the pandemic started she looked into other ways to get her series known, so she traveled to the west side of the state — to bookstores in Pentwater, Traverse City, Grand Haven, where she was able to sell numerous sets of her books to a new audience.

She has also created her own YouTube videos, one for each volume, in attempts to inspire at-home learning for both teachers and students.

Her books are available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. Visit lynnesmyles.com for more information.

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