Author, former West teacher’s work comes full circle

Jon Ripslinger’s work has been inspired by West, and are now being taught in the classroom


Laurence Walker

Jon Ripslinger’s yearbook photo from when he taught at West in 1973. Ripslinger did not write while he was teaching because he worked part-time jobs outside of West to provide for his six kids. His legacy at West lives on through his daugher and English teacher Jane Kroening.

Laurence Walker, Reporter

When West first opened its doors to students in 1959-1960, an entire school of educators were hired and became West’s first teachers. On Friday, May 24 one of the first wave of West teachers, 86-year-old English teacher and author Jon Ripslinger visited West. He came to talk to the yearbook staff about the 2020 yearbook for West’s 60th anniversary.

“I started working at West in 1961 and I retired in 1994,” Ripslinger said. “So that’s 33 years at West.”

Ripslinger was a staple of West for over half of the school’s lifetime, and has taught baby boomers, generation x-ers, and millennials.

“I ended with a lot of good friends who were students of mine, who are 50 or 60 or 70 years old now,” Ripslinger said. “I see them all the time around town, so I think that’s pretty cool.”

Ripslinger’s first book was published in 1994, the same year he retired.

“I started writing in the early 1990s when I was still a teacher,” Ripslinger said. “Though I was an English teacher, it took me a long time to learn how to write a novel and how to edit the novel, [and] how to find a publisher and how to promote the novel.”

Ripslinger cites his time at West as inspiration for his stories. As a young adult author, his stories often lead to high school settings.

“Anytime that a scene takes place in school, like a classroom, a hallway, or a cafeteria, I always picture in my mind the setting of West High School,” Ripslinger said. “I would say West High School and the local area has influenced my writing a great deal.”

It’s not just Ripslinger’s settings that have been influenced by West, but his characters too.

“The first book that I published was titled “Triangle.” It takes place right here at West High school,” Ripslinger said. “In fact I even used coach Steve Saladino’s name in the book, with his permission of course.”

Ripslinger’s murder-mystery “Missing Piecesis taught in English courses in North, Central, Assumption, and West.

“In young adult literature, we read a class novel and my class reads “Missing Pieces,” ” English teacher Lori Blocker said.

“Missing Pieces” is an interpretation of a real murder in Davenport known as the Klindt murder. In March of 1983, a man killed his wife and her torso was found in the Mississippi. Because of both the story and Ripslinger’s close connection to Davenport, Blocker says students are intrigued by the novel.

“It’s based in Davenport, Iowa,” Blocker said. “Typically the kids are really, really interested in that story and then they’re also interested in the fact that Mr. Ripslinger was a teacher here.”

As a former English teacher, Ripslinger is very happy with others deeming his book good enough to teach.

“I’m pretty thrilled about that. I never ever thought that a book of mine would be used in a classroom. I’m pretty proud of that,” Ripslinger said. “I guess that’s about the biggest compliment you can pay to a writer.”

Ripslinger has visited a class at Assumption to talk with students who are reading his novel. He discusses the story and answers the student’s questions.

“It really makes me feel pumped up when I see a group of young adults who are reading something I wrote and we can talk about the characters as if they’re real people and talk about the events as if they really happened,” Ripslinger said.

Ripslinger has fans at West, one of which is freshman Grace Echols who chose to read “Missing Pieces” for a book report in English teacher Alissa Hansen’s English I class.

“His writing style is very down to earth,” Echols said. “So you can really understand it because its based on a kid in high school who’s going through it all.”

As she read, Echols found herself deeply enjoying the story, even though she is not a huge fan of mysteries. She found herself enthralled with what the main character was going through. The novel follows a teenager trying to find out if his father killed his mother.

“Once I started reading it, it wasn’t just about a whole mystery murder and trying to figure it out,” Echols said. “It was more having all this background and then you realize the kid was actually going through a lot. He doesn’t want to believe that his dad killed his mom, but he can’t help wonder about it. I like how he really doesn’t understand his feelings, and how he really tries to figure it out and can’t.”

Since Ripslinger’s retirement in 1994, he has made a name for himself as an author in the Quad Cities. He is the author of 11 novels and has come a long way from being one of West High’s first English teachers. He plans to continue to right for as long as he can. His daughter Jane Kroening is also a current West English teacher as well.

“I’m working on two books right now, probably the last two books that I’ll work on. It takes three or four years to write a book and get it published,” Ripslinger said. “I’m 86 right now, so they’re probably that last two that I’ll write.”