Spotlight Iowa City: Really back to school


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A little boy named John once wandered the halls of Lemme Elementary in Iowa City. Admiring teachers recalled him as not only an avid reader, but as a kind and sensitive spirit.

Around three decades later, not much has changed — except his name. John now walks the halls as Mr. Bacon, the principal of Lemme Elementary and a recently published author.

“When kids come in, they are really yours all the way through elementary school, and that’s something that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, watching these kids grow up since kindergarten,” the 35-year-old said. “You really feel like you become an important part of their life.”

After teaching elementary school for five years, Bacon moved into administration seven years ago.

During the transition summer, he wrote a book, *With Friends Like These*, about a boy dealing with teasing, exclusion, and cruelty in middle school.

Recently, Bacon dusted off the story and published it through the Iowa City School District Foundation. The book is available for purchase through the foundation’s website with all profits going back to district schools.

Reactions to the book have been genuine, said Al Stroh, Bacon’s longtime friend and peer educator at Longfellow Elementary. Stroh credits it to his friend’s honest writing.

“I think he does a very good job describing what it feels like to be 10 or 11,” he said. “He understands the children and their problems.”

Bacon recalls the story as “basically [his] sixth-grade year” and wants readers to not only have fun with the story but identify with the themes.

“I’m hoping that if they read that book it can arm them just a little bit better, maybe make them feel like they aren’t alone going through a situation in life like that,” he said. “I want every child to have a safe and happy day. I think every kid deserves that.”

As a tall and lanky man, Bacon sticks out. It’s easy to spot his smile as he welcomes students every morning in the school’s parking lot. First-grade teacher Susie Thrams (who taught Bacon in kindergarten) appreciates how much he cares about the Lemme community.

“He’s very hands-on, both whenever there’s consequences and positive things going on,” she said. “He really loves that school.”

Fifth- and sixth-grade teacher Norm Balke describes Bacon as “enthusiastic.”

“Anyone can be positive, but enthusiasm is what gets you over the top — people to follow you,” he said.

However, despite the love the principal received from the community, Bacon emphasized that he’s not the only one making a difference in children’s lives.

“I don’t want to put myself out in front of the teachers at Lemme,” he said. “Teachers, families, and kids come way before me, and I’m doing my job well if I’m properly supporting all of those groups. I really believe it’s their hard work that makes me a success or failure, period.”

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