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By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (CBS) — Born and raised in Philadelphia, Susan Love had a rough start.  She was rescued from a fire at age five
and grew up in foster homes.

“It was a difficult time in my life, and I remember feeling like a misfit,” she says.

Fast forward thirty years.   Love graduated from college, got a master’s degree from Arcadia University, and today is a beloved writing teacher at Patterson Elementary School, in North Philadelphia, where she is created a special space for learning.

“I turned the clasroom into a tropical paridise,” says Love, who notes that teachers must be innovative in the classroom to spark interest from children.  “It was quite an investment, but the kids love it.”

(One corner of Susan Love's classroom at Patterson Elementary, showing the tropical theme.  Photo provided by Susan Love)

(One corner of Susan Love’s classroom at Patterson Elementary, showing the tropical theme. Photo provided by Susan Love)

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And every day her students, who are mostly Latino, travel to her little version of Puerto Rico, where they are inspired to write adventure stories.

“It’s so funny — they’ve always included me in the stories,” she says.   “At first I thought it was cute, then every story I’d read had this ‘Mrs. Love’ character in a hula skirt dancing around, and it made me think.”

Love, who also advocates for foster children, says reading her students’ stories inspired her to write.  She recently published an animated e-book, titled Ms. Love’s Mystical Island Adventure.

(Love's classroom desk sports a grass "skirt."   Photo provided by Susan Love)

(Love’s classroom desk sports a grass “skirt.” Photo provided by Susan Love)

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Love says she included some of the students’ concepts, such as a waterfall, magic, and more, into her story.

“It’s amazing that this all began in North Philadelphia,” she says.  “It’s just testimony that city children are brillant.”

Love says the e-book tells the story of children overcoming challenge after challenge in a tropical island world, realizing they have special powers and talents that tackle adversity.

love book

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Love says the story is her gift to children.  “It gives me an opportunity to keep giving messages of hope,” she says.  “I want them to know they are heros.”

Ms. Love’s Mystical Island Adventure is available on iTunes and on Kindle.

For more about Susan Love, go to mslovesmysticalisland.com.

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