Union County teacher writes a book, retires after 40 years
by Tobiah Clark
A challenge from her English class inspired one retiring Union County teacher to pick up a pen and write a book. The students dared Regina Jeffers to write another side of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” asserting the beloved teacher was certainly knowledgeable and passionate enough about this literary work.
Jeffers retired from teaching in Union County this year, leaving her more time to write. Working as a teacher for more than 40 years, she received various awards for her excellence, including the Time Warner Cable Star Teacher Award which recognizes educators for their ability to positively influence their students. Winners of this award comes from students’ votes. Each high school chooses a top student, who then names the teacher that most influenced him. Jeffers won the award for Union County, as well as a similar award in an Ohio school district.
Her book was originally published for this class, as a tribute to the students whose inspiration made the project a reality. The self-published book began to sell on Amazon, gaining the notice of a publisher. Ulysses Press contacted Jeffers with an offer to publish and sell her book.
To any writer, this is the quintessential fairy tale. Jeffers described her life as “an ordinary life with extraordinary experiences.” She went on to say that she has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, followed by a list of famous people, places, and rare circumstances that sound like they could be part of Forest Gump. She was also a student at Marshall University when the plane crashed in 1970, killing the football team. Her son was born prematurely, and Jeffers nearly gave birth to him in the middle of a class.
A love of reading
Jeffers first read Jane Austen at age 12, falling immediately in love with Mr. Darcy. Her love for Austen followed her around throughout her life, and now she proudly calls herself a “Janeite.” According to Jeffers, a Janeite devours anything and everything that is Austen. Jeffers holds a card to prove her membership in the Jane Austen Club of North America. This love of Austen has expanded beyond just reading, teaching, and swallowing Austen’s books whole. Jeffers writes fictional accounts of this Regency period, telling more stories of Austen’s beloved characters.
There is a niche for this romantic fiction, and stories are spun about these times and characters to capture the hearts of the true romantics. Jeffers is a true romantic herself, capturing an audience of which she also is a participatory member. One of the first lines from her website reads, “For those of us who love historical romance, we rejoice in proving that ignoring propriety is so much more fulfilling than meeting the antiquated precepts of love and marriage. We celebrate filial rebellion and independence.”
According to Jeffers, in the Regency times, “women lacked options.” Austen wrote about women whose only financial support laid within the men in her life, which was first, the father and then the husband. As a feminist, these issues Austen first wrote about are still issues on the front battle line of this modern age.
Jeffers is overjoyed at her retirement. According to her, “40 years was enough.” Writing furiously, she sent off yet another manuscript this month, while yet another collection of stories will also be published this month. Her latest work, “The Road to Pemberly,” is an anthology of Pride and Prejudice stories, featuring the beloved Austen characters. She has also begun a series in which the characters are her own, thus moving away from Jane Austen to an extent. Jeffers said she is content to just write now that she is no longer teaching.
“If it all ends tomorrow, it will have been a full ride,” Jeffers said, laughing heartily.
And so far, her life has been a ride that mirrors the fairy tale that so many of us long for. Her “ordinary life with its extraordinary experiences” has touched the lives of many students, fulfilled the lives of her family, and enhanced the lives of her many avid readers. As she enjoys her first year of retirement from a long teaching career, looking forward to writing and spending some quality time with her family, it seems as if her fairy tale truly has a happy ending.