Co-Author, The 1947 Freedom Train
For longtime grade school teacher and professional storyteller Kathy Maggart, the writing of The 1947 Freedom Train is a culmination of the two greatest passions of her life: educating young children in a powerfully creative, individualized manner and making both fictional tales and real-life history come alive in ways that engage kids’ minds and inspire them to chase their dreams.
The initial inspiration for the book, which she co-authored with her dear friend Kathie Eidson, was initiated by her husband’s encouragement after he discovered the story one day while researching on the internet. Tim Maggart co-wrote the song, “Freedom Train,” with Jon D’Agostino, about this exciting but often overlooked event in America’s post WWII history.
The process of collaboration in the writing of this story was a dream come true.
Kathie and I have such a mutual respect for each other’s creativity and a deep love for children that this book naturally flowed out of our hearts and into the laptop! Her goal is for this all-American story to come to life for young readers, as the train starts moving down the track.
The book begins with Grandpa Charles sharing his memories of boarding the train during its stop in Atlanta years ago with his grandchildren Justin and Libby and their friends Jaden and Sonia. As kids read about the way Grandpa’s memories inspire the characters to build their own “Freedom Train” for their friends in the neighborhood, they can “jump on board” and learn precious lessons about freedom and our nation’s founding documents (including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights) that were on display.
Kathy made sure to cleverly include four elements of Americana: Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet. To help encourage a new generation of proud young Americans, the authors plan to provide easy to use classroom activities that engage and excite children to follow the story of the Freedom Train as it rolls through the United States. But to the authors, it’s a truly ageless and timeless story that people of all ages can enjoy.
We hope to bring out the natural curiosity of children to learn more about the founding documents aboard the train. We also want educators to use the book and the activities we have created for it as a foundational teaching tool along with helping students continue to appreciate the military men and women who have served to protect their freedoms.
Kathy’s patriotism is rooted in her upbringing in a Navy family. She was born on a military base in Olathe, Kansas and raised for the most part in San Diego—with a short 18-month stint on Midway Island in the South Pacific for a year of elementary school. For the first ten years of her marriage, her husband was on active duty in the U.S. Army as a Physical Therapist. Their son served in an Army Reserve Air Traffic Control Unit and spent a year on duty in Kuwait. He currently works for the F.A.A. as an Air Traffic Controller. Their daughter followed in Kathy’s footsteps as an educator and is currently a Theatre Teacher/Director, grades 6-12.
With a degree in Christian education, Kathy spent eight years as a pre-school teacher and school director. The experience of sharing stories with young students inspired her, while raising her own children, to start her business, Sensational Storytelling. This venture regularly took her to schools while living in different cities including San Diego, CA, Tacoma, WA, San Antonio, TX, Phenix City, AL and Columbus, GA. The primary mission of Sensational Storytelling, which she ran for 14 years, was to incorporate books, music with guitar, movement, and props with 16 different costumed characters and integrated themes to create an atmosphere conducive to promoting children’s love for reading. Kathy’s venture focused on Pre-K through 2nd Grade.
In 2000, Kathy returned to school to pursue her Masters in Elementary Education K-6 from Troy State University. Upon receiving her degree, she began her career as a 1st and 2nd Grade teacher in the Phenix City school district in Alabama. Her approach to education was unique, as she worked hard to integrate teaching strategies such as music, movement, hands-on activities and art into a comprehensive learning experience. She also provided individualized reading conferences and created literacy, science, and math centers.
Kathy has won multiple teaching awards including her district’s “Rookie Teacher of the Year” in 2003 and the prestigious “Golden Apple Teacher” award, 2008. She has tested students for Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences, and created centers to work with this knowledge. As technological advances took hold, she integrated computers, the Smartboard and iPad into core subjects. During this time, she celebrated 2 First and 2 Second Place District-Wide Young Author winners. She also raised money from Civic clubs and other sources to take her 2nd place National Art Award winner and her mother on a trip to an honorary event with the National Career Development Association Convention in San Francisco.
Kathy, as well as a team of teachers, opened the “Ocean Museum” together- a fascinating interactive learning experience. Students walked into the museum through a life-sized model of the baleen mouth of a Blue Whale, the sounds of which played within. The Museum was also filled with 10 different hands-on activities that integrated knowledge of the ocean and Blue Whales. Students were able to stand next to a life-sized model of a Blue Whale heart, hold real whale vertebrae, walk beside 3 school buses simulating the length of a Blue Whale, and hear stories while watching an underwater video from a scuba diver who had dove all around the world creating videos of his diving excursions. Kathy received positive recognition for this event in the Alabama Education Magazine in 2009.
It’s that kind of interactive educational experience that Kathy, her co-writer Kathie Eidson and their brilliant illustrator Skip Bowers hope to create with The 1947 Freedom Train. Kathy says,
One of the most fascinating parts of the research we discovered was that the whole idea of the train began with a man named William Coblenz, who went to the National Archives on his lunch break one day and saw originals of many of the founding documents. He realized that many Americans would never be able to come to Washington DC, to see these pieces for themselves. His passion came to the attention of Attorney General Thomas C. Clark, who agreed it would be a great idea to reawaken Americans to their taken for granted principles of liberty in the post-war years. The idea soon received the approval of President Truman. As Grandpa Charles says in our book,
New beginnings all start from caring ideas. The 1947 Freedom Train happened because that one person cared.