Born: August 21, 1948
Ohio connection: Birth
Sharon Draper, daughter of Victor D. and Catherine Mills, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She was the eldest of three children raised in a close-knit community. Education was a high priority in her family, and she grew up with a deep love of reading. From childhood she had a strong desire to become a teacher. After her graduation from high school, she went on to Pepperdine University, where she received a B.A. She received an M.A. from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Married to Larry E. Draper, she is the mother of four: Wendy, Damon, Crystal, and Cory. In 1970, Draper became an English teacher at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, and eventually head of the English Department there. In 1997, she was named National Teacher of the Year. It is said that students are eager to sign up for her English classes, even though she is well known for assigning to seniors a lengthy, demanding research paper due in the last quarter of the school year. Dubbed “the Draper Paper,” it is intended as a challenging test of writing skills, textual analysis, and research ability, and former students can be seen about town wearing “I Survived the Draper Paper” T-shirts. Draper is one of the most highly regarded African-American authors and educators in the country today, writing poetry and fiction for children, young adults, and adults. Her “Ziggy” series for children includes Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs; Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs: Lost in the Tunnel of Time; and Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs: Shadow of Caesar`s Creek. Some young adult titles are Tears of a Tiger, Romiette and Julio, Jazzimagination, Double Dutch, and The Battle of Jericho. She has written a poetry book for children, Let the Circle Be Unbroken, and one for adults, Buttered Bones. She has also written non-fiction books on teaching: Teaching from the Heart: Reflections, Encouragement, and Inspiration; and Not Quite Burned Out but Crispy Around the Edges: Inspiration, Laughter, and Encouragement for Teachers. Sharon Draper continues to live and work in the Cincinnati area.
First prize, Ebony Magazine Literary Contest, 1991, for short story, "One Small Torch"; Coretta Scott King Genesis Award for an outstanding new book, American Library Association (ALA), 1995, for Tears of a Tiger; Best Book for Young Adults, ALA, Best Books, Children's Book Council and Bank Street College, Books for the Teen Age, New York Public Library, and Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, National Council for the Social Studies, 1995, for Tears of a Tiger, and 1998, for Forged by Fire; Outstanding High School English Language Arts Educator, Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts, 1995; Midwest regional winner of the NCNW Excellence in Teaching Award, 1996; Governor's Educational Leadership Award from the Governor of Ohio, 1996; National Teacher of the Year, 1997; Coretta Scott King Genesis Award, ALA, 1998, for Forged by Fire; Ohioana Book Award, 2007 for Copper Sun.