Debbra Kay Laneville was born and raised in North Central Iowa. She earned her B.A. teaching degree at the University of Northern Iowa and a Master’s in Education at Marygrove College in Michigan. Her forty-two years of teaching experience has included all grade levels from preschool to high school.
She has taught in seven states and says that each teaching position gave her valuable life lessons that she knew she had to share with the world. You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Life Lessons from Special Kids debuted at Number One in its category on Amazon.
Debbra resides in Medina, Ohio, with her husband, Don.
Congratulations on your success with the book! When did you realize that you wanted to write about your experiences?
A seed was planted in my mind after my first two years of teaching when someone said, “You should write a book.” Different people told me this throughout my career, so I finally decided to do it. The book was years in the making as I had many stories to tell, and I felt that I could bring awareness and understanding for the special kids I taught. When I retired, it became a mission for me, so I worked harder to complete the book.
The Author and Creator of our lives often writes in a twist that ultimately blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?
I have had many unexpected twists in my life. When I graduated from college, I said the one area I would never teach is middle school. My plan was to be an elementary teacher. Yet, when my first full-time job offer was in middle school as a new teacher creating a new program, I took the job and found I loved teaching middle school. I never expected to teach preschool or kindergarten, yet when those opportunities presented themselves, I found I loved that too. We moved around quite a bit with my husband’s job, so I was blessed to always find a job that I enjoyed teaching children from preschool to high school.
Let’s talk about You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Life Lessons from Special Kids (August 2023). Please tell us about it.
This is a group of stories that are told throughout my career. The chapters are in a chronological order from the first years of my teaching career to the last years. The reader gets a glimpse of each student’s struggles, triumphs and educational journey while in my classroom. These stories are humorous, profound, and sometimes heart-wrenching with every emotion in between. It can serve as a valuable resource to all those people who wonder how to best interact with this population. Throughout my career I discovered new ways to reach students that are certainly not in the lessons I learned from textbooks and experiences of college courses. The book is available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook versions.
You include ten special insights in the back of the book. How did these come about?
This book started off as a teacher’s memoir of the culmination of forty-two years of teaching. Then I paused, talked to God, and realized I needed to include all the things these special kids taught me and the lessons we can all learn from them. That evolved into ten life lessons that we can all learn from these children.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
I like to sit on my back deck and have a cup of tea and a chocolate chip cookie. When I was a little girl my grandma let me have tea with milk and it made me feel special, so I think of her when I drink my tea. I like chocolate chip cookies better than pies or cakes, or any other desert. My tastes are simple.
What Bible passage or story best describes your journey of faith?
Psalms 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” There were so many times that I felt stuck when writing this book. How should I tell this child’s story? How can I best show his or her struggles, triumphs or joys with an authentic voice?
I would walk my dog. God reminded me that I needed to stop stressing and start trusting Him. I needed to realize who He was and what He can do. So, with each difficult part, I would pray for wisdom and guidance, and then, be still. Wisdom has been my word of the year, and each time I prayed to God to give me wisdom, I got an answer.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
I can be different people at different times. I like to think I am the strong female lead, especially in my role as a teacher, but there are times I love to be the girl next door and be a cheerleader for my family and friends. I try to be a good listener when they need me.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets or your favorite pet as a child.
I am a dog lover as well. I have asthma, so one of the few dogs I can live with is a schnauzer. We just love the breed and have had four schnauzers. In my classroom, I loved having pets and talked about the value of classroom pets at school. These included fish, bearded dragons, turtles, frogs, guinea pigs and hermit crabs at various times.
Thanks, Debbra! It’s great to have you as a guest at Divine Detour.
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To purchase a copy of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Life Lessons from Special Kids, go to —