Botetourt Co. teacher, class, tackle mental health issues with new books

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DALEVILLE, Va. (WDBJ7) For Bruce Ingram, writing and teaching were always two things he wanted to do. For the last several decades, he’s served as a public educator in Virginia.

Now an English teacher at Lord Botetourt High School, Ingram has started a new mission – connecting with high school students on a new level.

“There wasn’t enough books that were really about people their age, and their issues and their successes and their failures,” Ingram said.

So he took it on himself to change that, eventually writing a book called 9th Grade Blues. The success of that book has led Ingram to write a series.

So far, Ingram has written 9th Grade Blues and 10th Grade Angst, and is now working on a book titled 11th Grade Stress.

The series follows four fictional high school students who deal with real life issues impacting students across the country.

“I want the kids to feel like they’re not the only ones going through tough times,” Ingram said.

Although it’s Ingram writing the books, he leaves the editing and critiquing up to his fictional writing students at Lord Botetourt High School.

The project is not only teaching students about fictional writing, but also life lessons they can apply to their own struggles.

“It really talks about just keeping your friends close and to stay true to yourself,” said Abby Martin, who has been working on the project for the last three years.

The books address a range of serious issues plaguing high school students, from body image problems and eating disorders, to mental health and depression.

“I just feel like that really addresses how girls feel and students in high school,” said Jessica Lancanese, who’s been involved in the project since the very beginning.

What Ingram couldn’t have predicted was the impact his books would have on his students.

“It saved my life,” said Krysten Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald has now developed a love of writing, while also learning to better deal with problems in her own life.

“I’ve had a lot of issues with self-esteem and eating disorders,” she said.

The books have received rave reviews so far, and are available online for purchase through major retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Ingram said he will complete the series next year as the four fictional characters graduate the 12th grade.