Todd Sentell is the author of the hilarious social satire, "Toonamint of Champions—How LaJuanita Mumps Got to Join Augusta National Golf Club Real Easy: A Particularly Allegorical Comedy of Real Bad Manners," a candidate for the 2008 Thurber Prize for American Humor, ultimately won by "I Love You, Beth Cooper," by Larry Doyle, now a motion picture. An Atlanta native, Todd is also a two-time award winner for magazine journalism from the Magazine Association of the Southeast.
His novella, "Why Golf Is So Exciting! A Novelty!" is due out in December, 2013 by Stairway Press in paperback and e-book.
Todd's hilarious and deeply heartwarming diary of his rookie year of teaching Georgia history to students with learning, emotional, and behavior disorders, A Dixie Diary, at www.adixiediary.com, is considered one of the finest online teacher's journals ever published. Much like the acclaimed memoir, "Educating Esme," by Esme Raji Codell, A Dixie Diary puts the reader right in the classroom for a personal experience that’s mesmerizing, sometimes shocking, but ultimately it’s a tribute to the power of student achievement and deeply dedicated teaching.
“Todd has plunged into our discussions with wit and insight" ... with that, Todd has just been named a featured member of Edutopia, the web site of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, for his astute comments in response to various school and teaching-related articles.
Todd has just finished a book-length memoir, "No Classroom For Old Men—Why You Teach. Or Not," at turns hilarious and heartwarming, about the most remarkable moments of his teaching career spent exclusively at special education schools in Georgia. He's now a fine arts, language arts, and civics teacher as well as the head track and field coach at a school in north Atlanta for students with profound psychiatric disorders.
Todd recently taught a "sold out" teaching-writing-skills workshop to other teachers from around the state at the annual conference of the Georgia Independent School Association. After the lecture, the teachers stood up and clapped for another teacher. It was quite a moment in the history of American education.
A PREVIEW OF NO CLASSROOM FOR OLD MEN ...
On the last day of the week of the first week of school we come to the undeniable case of Spike, the former seventh grader who is now an eighth grader who is an elf.
Spike was an elf in seventh grade and he is still an elf and he is ageless and changeless and brings fun and humor and mischief to the dreary world of the rest of us boring people. I have that certain funny feeling that we’ll come to the undeniable case of Spike every day this year.
This year, Spike has no more—or less—freckles. He still has a million of them. His head hairs still shoot straight up. Like a mood ring, the color of his eyes still change from blue to green when he gets worked up. His voice is still squeaky. Spike has grown to a height of ten inches.
He is constantly moving, thinking, pondering, brooding, calculating, prognosticating, anticipating, commenting. His eyes are always open and watching for opportunities to please. His manners are natural and wonderful and instantly make me feel better.
Outside, during breaks, he’ll have in his hands a string. Then the string will end up with two knots, one on each end. Then Spike will come show you how the string he’s been playing with might be used to save civilization from evil. In several different and believable ways. Just him and a string with knots. I don’t have a reason not to believe him.
This week, preparing the fall semester Georgia history syllabus, which the students sign, then becoming a contract, I’m asking them what three or four things can I do in the classroom as your Georgia history teacher this year to help you help me help you. I came to Spike.
Spike said he appreciated having study guides prior to tests; that he enjoys projects; he is delighted thoroughly and educated by going on lots of field trips; and he loves watching documentaries on the flat screen TV in the corner.
I can do that.
Twice this week in morning homeroom, Spike, out of the blue, dropped to the floor, pulled both ankles behind his head, locked them together, poked his arms out to the side like airplane wings, and then rocked back and forth on the bony knobs of his spine while he smiled and gladly answered our questions.
Spike is a one in a million billion 8th grader elf, who coats then soaks me with his personality every day, but he’s right in line with the rest of my historians on what I can do, seriously and syllabus-wise, to help him help me help him … God help us.
Before we went home today, in the last home room of the day, as they pack up and see me melt into an end-of-the-week giddiness they seem to like, I ask Spike what else I could do to help him succeed in school and in life and help me help him help me.
It’s as if Spike had been waiting for the question all of his life.
Spike immediately says he’d like to have spider legs that could pop out of his back and help him crawl across the ceiling.
I ask him, giggling, actually trying to keep the giddiness going … And anything else?
And he’d like to have the power of invisibility. In his elf voice, Spike says, he’d like to have the power of tele-por-tation. Spike says he’d like to have a long monkey tail grow out of the end of his spine that he can whip around.
Since the beginning of the week Spike has been pestering me about selling his soul. Not to the devil. To me. I’ve been pushing him off. That’s an important decision in a kid’s life. I’ve been telling him to sell his soul to his parents. I said I bet they’d appreciate having you in their grips even tighter, but that suggestion didn’t deter him. Spike became even more glued to his belief that if he sold his soul to me that that would make him a better student and human being. I was deeply flattered.
You cannot deny this child. No one, of any age, can deny Spike his time in their face and life. So we burst out laughing and point at Spike and pat him on the back.
He sort of understands. Spike thinks the way he acts and thinks is no big deal and wonders why we find him so sensational.
It’s 3:15. Lurlene the principal screams from down the hall … LET’S GO!
Before Spike leaves for home and the first weekend of the school year, he out-of-the blue says to me with bright elf eyes and a smile … Do no da go hv i … pronounced, doh noh dah goh huh ee. Cherokee for, Until we meet again. Something Spike learned as a seventh grader last year ... three months ago ... in my mid-afternoon study hall, “Lunch and Learn,” and remembered across the span of a summer.
Until Spike and me meet again. That would be early Monday morning.
I can’t wait.
PRAISE FOR TOONAMINT OF CHAMPIONS ...
GOLFWEEK … “Todd Sentell’s fictional Toonamint of Champions is like a convergence of NBC’s ‘The Office’ and Golf Channel’s ‘Big Break.’ The narrative is antic in the extreme and occasionally hysterical in its savage characterization of a certain oleaginous Southern golf gentility.”
BOOKLIST … “Golf inspires its share of mystical celebration, but it also provides fertile ground for low comedy-take Caddyshack, or the novels of Dan Jenkins and Rick Reilly. When it comes to over-the-top slapstick, though, golf journalist Sentell makes Jenkins and Reilly look like somber social realists out of the Emile Zola school.”
TERESA WEAVER OF ATLANTA MAGAZINE … “Todd Sentell is definitely a local author to watch. Toonamint of Champions has a lot of great creative energy in it. Very offbeat and very funny.”
MIKE SUSSMAN OF WORDSMITHS BOOKS ... Toonamint of Champions was selected as one of Wordsmiths Books “Best Books of 2007.” Sussman: “Since reading this book, I’ve become a fan of other comedic authors, including Carl Hiaasen and Christopher Moore, but I think a new book has taken over the crown as my favorite funny book. Sentell has filled his story with bigger than life characters, and I was literally laughing on almost every page … his is a unique writing style that’s basically full of run-on sentences, but his wordplay is fantastic. It’s sort of like Elmore Leonard, except nobody gets shot at the end of each sentence.”