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Freedom ES substitute teacher illustrates first children’s book

Freedom Elementary School substitute teacher Nader Batayeh has illustrated his first children’s book, “Never Look Back,” about a true story of an emaciated dog, Ellie, who was rescued from a shelter.

 Batayeh always loved to paint and draw as a kid.

“My mom said I always had a pencil drawing in my hand,” Batayeh said.

Illustrating a children’s book has been a decades long dream for him.

“Art has always been in my life,” Batayeh said. “I feel like I have a natural ability to paint and draw and I promised God, I would never let it drop,” he added.

Batayeh spent the first 21 years of his career working at the Federal Reserve Bank until his department closed.

From there he went back to school in his forties to become an art teacher.

In 2015, Batayeh began working as a substitute teacher for District 202, primarily serving at Freedom Elementary School.

“Being a substitute teacher is a perfect fit for me,” he said.

Batayeh also taught art classes to adults at a studio in downtown Plainfield.

It was in this class that Batayeh met Nancy Byrne, the author of “Never Look Back.”

Batayeh offered to illustrate Byrne’s book.

“Illustrating my first book was not stressful at all, rather it was more exciting,” he said.

He spent six months creating 17 water-color paintings for the 36-page book.

“Readers can have fun searching for Ellie’s name in nearly every painting in the book,” Batayeh said.

Ellie was rescued in 2019 and fostered by Byrne, before being adopted by a veterinarian in Peotone.

In April 2022, Batayeh, Byrne, the veterinarian, and Ellie came to Freedom ES for a book reading.

Batayeh is hoping to read the book at other District 202 schools.

The book, “Never Look Back,” is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville.

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