English teacher makes poetry book inspired by student struggles


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – A Lincoln High School English teacher is giving his students a voice through his latest poetry book. In today’s world, for struggling students, it can be hard to find the words to express themselves. Through his latest book, English teacher Xavier Pastrano is helping them find their voice.

“We’re kind of living in a world where it’s getting harder and harder to express yourself without having somebody yelling over you,” former student and poet Makhiya Highstrom said.

Since middle school, Makhiya Highstrom has been turning to poetry as a way to express them self and connect with others

“I have poems based off of my own personal growth and ‘coming to’ stories. I have some about my girlfriend,” Highstrom said.

A passion that only grew when they got into high school. Something that didn’t go unnoticed by English teacher Xavier Pastrano.

“I was working really closley with my freshmen and their other teachers and just became increasingly aware of a lot of the personal struggles and experiences that they were going through,” Pastrano said.

Wanting to know more, he gave the freshman class an anonymous survey to take asking them to express how they currently feel in life.

“These kids are experiencing very, very real emotions. Very adult emotions from loss… insecurity and stuff like that, and so some of them were kind of heartbreaking,” Pastrano said.

Inspired by their responses, he turned them into a collection of poems in a self-published book titled, “Hey Kid.” He says he wrote the it for other kids to read and connect with and to help give a voice to those in need.

“I just want to try and chronicle that human experience and, yeah, just connect with people,” Pastrano said.

“You know, sitting here and reading this, you can hear the pain that he sometimes went through trying to write from the perspective of these students who are going through tough times,” Highstrom said.

So far he’s published 40 books this summer and continues to make more.

Photo Courtesy: Xavier Pastrano

Highstrom says that it has a little something for everyone.

“I mean, it’s very powerful stuff too, I mean, I really look up to Mr. Pastrano and… you know, even if you’re not into poetry, I do think ‘Hey Kid’ is definitley a book you can get into,” Highstrom said.

Proving that just because someone could seem ‘OK’ that doesn’t mean you should judge a book by its cover.

Pastrano is currently working on another set of books and hopes to put them up for sale in the coming weeks. If you’d like to see more of his works, you can visit his official Facebook page.

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