Jackson native Rhonda Willford Eberst was always the class clown.
She harnesses her humor — and, more importantly, her love for children — in her debut book, “I Survived Pompeii: Hilarious Adventures In An Elementary School Library.”
Working in the Ohio school system for over three decades, Eberst collected stories about the comical, heartwarming interactions she has had with students. She started sharing the stories on Facebook for the amusement of her friends and family, toying with the idea of a book in the back of her head.
“If you ask any educator, they’ll say they wish they had collected stories,” Eberst said.
Eberst was born and raised in Jackson and graduated from Jackson Hole High School in 1977. She learned that while you can leave the small town, the small town never leaves you. After posting her stories on Facebook, Eberst reconnected with another Jacksonite, Laura Bush.
Eberst and Bush were a few years apart in high school. Bush founded book publishing company Peacock Proud Press and is a writing coach.
“Laura has the phenomenal ability to bring out the best in a writer,” Eberst said.
Eberst’s book is a compilation of true short stories inspired by her students, with their names changed, of course.
“A lot of the kids know it’s them, though,” Eberst said.
The book will make you laugh and may make you cry.
“My hope is that it makes people think,” Eberst said.
She hopes the book reminds educators and adults to make sure children know they matter.
“Not just to tell them, but to show them,” Eberst said.
Eberst pinpoints finding her confidence as a young adult to her seventh-grade teacher, Laura Lawton, who was Eberst’s cheerleader throughout her school years. Though Eberst connects to children through humor, she believes that every teacher must find their own voice.
“Kids need to know that they belong and have value just as they are,” Eberst said.
Eberst is returning for a hometown celebration and book signing from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday at Valley Bookstore.