Queensbury teacher publishes lesson in perseverance

QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – After years of encouraging students to follow their dreams, Queensbury Middle School teacher Jamie Strait realized she should take her own advice. The result: One local educator finishing and releasing her first children’s book, getting the same message out to even more people.

As the school year begins, Strait – who teaches 6th-grade English and writing at Queensbury – has been getting supportive words, emails, and selfies from students and families holding copies of “Last Place Lexi,” a children’s book Strait self-published this year. The book follows a day in the life of Lexi Lexington, a girl who keeps bumping up against a type of problem Strait saw both her students and her own daughter going through – one which she couldn’t quite find represented in other children’s books.

“So many kids today want things to be perfect and go exactly as planned on their first try,” said Strait, who has taught at Queensbury since 2008. “I wanted to write something to show kids that they should keep on trying, even if they don’t succeed on their first try, because that’s not always how things go. I was finding books with similar themes, but not exactly what I was looking for.”

In the book, big obstacles come alongside small ones. Lexi gets a bad grade in school, loses a soccer game, and has to make the choice between giving up and being resilient in the face of failure. Strait brings other examples to mind that could apply to any kid – like getting a bad photo taken on picture day, or making a card for a friend that doesn’t come out right. No matter the problem, the solution is to get back up and try again.

“Last Place Lexi” was illustrated by Amanda Newman, a friend of Strait’s since 3rd grade. Newman now lives in Australia, but in the modern age of communications, it was as if the two were still together in the same place while bringing Lexi to life.

“I had no idea how we were going to make this work, but it’s really cool that technology has allowed us to make an entire book. We did so much FaceTime at random times of the day – 2 a.m. for me, I don’t even know what time for her,” said Strait.

Now, “Last Place Lexi” can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online. In the future, Strait hopes to expand the book’s reach to local libraries and bookstores.

In the meantime, her character and story have plenty of reach within and outside her own community. Queensbury students send her selfies with the book. One has told her that they want to be an author, too. Even parents have been impacted, telling Strait that reading the book with their kids or classes has them asking, in their own lives, “What would Lexi do?”

With the book’s footprint entirely online, Lexi’s story has reached families across the globe. Strait has heard from parents as far as Australia and the United Kingdom, as well as a California mother who said that the message helped her child with sensory issues.

Strait is currently focusing on getting “Last Place Lexi” into more hands, but already has ideas for more stories. Although “Lexi” is her first book, the teacher has been coming up with stories since she was a child. Publishing represents the fulfillment of a dream – and an open door to another.

“It was always my dream to publish a book,” Strait said. “I thought that was the dream, but finding out how it helped people – strangers – that’s the real dream.”

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