Decades in education have shaped John Kellmayer’s writing career
John Kellmayer would like the next chapter of his career to include a blockbuster novel.
The Haddonfield native and longtime educator is preparing to publish his eighth book. However, “The Spengler Algorithm,” which will be released in October or November, will be Kellmayer’s first attempt at appealing to a wider commercial audience.
“It’s a fast-moving action thriller,” Kellmayer said, describing the book. “I think it’s as good as what James Patterson does.”
Kellmayer — who sports long, wispy brown hair and a moustache — retired last year after 17 years as superintendent for the Brooklawn Public School District. He said he never set out to be an educator, but his experience inside the classroom has shaped his writing career.
Kellmayer wanted to be a full-time writer, but he said the profession wasn’t stable or lucrative enough. He decided to become a teacher and, in 1986, he took an offer to become the first principal of a new alternative high school in Atlantic County. It was a tough job.
“Basically, it was an all-star team of difficult high school kids,” Kellmayer said. “They were chronically disruptive or disaffected.”
Many of the students had chaotic lives away from the classroom that included drugs, alcohol, violence and emotional problems, he said. One year, 10 percent of the student population died, according to Kellmayer.
“We dealt with kids that had so many problems,” he added.
Looking back, Kellmayer said his 13-year tenure as principal of Atlantic County Alternative High School was transformative for him.
“It was a very, very tremendous learning experience,” he said. “It was a life-changing experience.”
The experience inspired his first two books, “How to Establish an Alternative School” and “The Mouse in the Microwave: A Memoir of Fourteen Years With At-Risk Youth.” The first was an academic text and the second recounted some of the experiences Kellmayer had as principal of the school.
Kellmayer moved back to Haddonfield in the 1990s and became Brooklawn superintendent in 2000.
During his time in Brooklawn, Kellmayer noticed two things — increasing stress levels for his teachers and high numbers of reluctant readers. So, he penned a couple more books.
“Teacher on the Brink,” published in 2016, is a novel about a teacher who strikes back at a flawed school system. It was influenced by Kellmayer’s own experience with teachers who are frustrated over the politics of education.
“There’s a lot of pressure on teachers,” Kellmayer said.
Kellmayer also started a series for students in the age group from third to sixth grade called “The Adventures of the Batty School Kids.” In July, he published the fourth book in the series, which is based in a fictional New Jersey suburb.
The idea is to engage students who might not otherwise pick up a book.
“They’re funny,” Kellmayer said. “They try to teach some lessons too without really preaching.”
It’s Kellmayer’s first foray into the world of children’s literature.
“I’ve written everything really,” he adds.
“The Spengler Algorithm” will be the first book Kellmayer has written that will not draw heavily from his experience in education. The novel deals with a range of topics, including genetic manipulation, demographics and politics, and takes its title from Oswald Spengler’s classic “The Decline of the West.”
Kellmayer said in a recent interview that he is working with an editor to finalize the book.
“I’m playing around with the idea of making it a series,” he said. “I’ll have to see how successful it is.”