When I was a little girl, even before I had a great teacher, I always knew I wanted to teach. The summer vacations never occurred to me at the time (but it's such a great perk!) All I knew was that I would ask my teachers for extra worksheets so I could play school at home with my sisters and cousins.
I never liked to read. I remember being in middle school with a huge basal reader. We had to read stories and then answer the questions at the end of the story. Sooooo boring. I never read a great book and was never "turned on" to reading.
I went through high school not really feeling anything special about reading but finally had a teacher worth remembering my senior year. She was my government teacher. It wasn't the content of the class that made me remember this teacher so, it was her. Ms. Thompson was great. The reason I remember her so fondly is because she knew stuff about me. The way I remember it, she helped orchestrate the relationship I began with my boyfriend that year - a guy who was my total opposite, but we really liked each other. She talked to me about my personal life - I knew she cared. And that made her one of my favorite teachers.
I went to undergrad at Northern Arizona University. I worked toward a Bachelor's of Science in Elementary Education with an ESL endorsement. My classes were taught on an elementary school campus and very practical. I had another pair of teachers my senior year who were much like Ms. Thompson. They were great with the content and they were another pair that really influenced the kind of teacher I am today, because like my fave teacher senior year, they also cared and were interested in their students. I took my first group on a field trip to NAU and we got to see each other. How cool for them to see the fruits of their labor (me!) come back with a group of kids!
I began teaching during the 2003-2004 school year in the Creighton School District in Phoenix, Arizona. This school district is approximately 95% free and reduced lunch and mostly Hispanic. I taught sixth grade at Creighton School - Language Arts and Social Studies. I had a great foundation to work with from undergrad and I LOVED my first group. I didn't really know what I was doing content and assessment-wise, but what teacher does her first year? All I knew my first few years is that if I cared about my middle school kids the way my favorite teachers cared about me, I could basically get them to take risks and learn with me - whether that meant singing about transformations, reading a shared text together, or sharing our writing.
Because I didn't love reading as a kid, I asked for suggestions from my librarian of great books to read with kids. She suggested Because of Winn-Dixie, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, Stargirl, and The Giver. So, I read these books with kids and it was such a great experience. I saw how powerful reading could be (imagine if I had done this when I was in school?!)
At the conclusion of my third year, I switched to another school in our district - Excelencia - to work with this guy:
Damon Twist was my AP at Creighton and he had moved over to Excelencia, and I wanted to go there with him. So I packed my things and went over there, remaining in sixth grade. It was about this time that I realized I would get kids who didn't know how to read - and I had no idea what to do about it. So, I applied for a program at Arizona State University with an emphasis on Language and Literacy - this would be my Reading Specialist certificate. I learned all about Reading and Writing Workshop and finally figured out what I had to do to get middle school kids reading and writing. I implemented so many strategies into my classroom and saw great results. I finally used all those books in my classroom library - sorted them, taught kids how to use the library, and enjoy reading books.
After three years at Excelencia and the completion of my graduate degree in 2009, I moved to Chicago. I didn't have a job, but it was time for a change.
I was lucky to find a job at Heritage Middle School. I didn't feel like I was ready to be out of the classroom, so I took a Language Arts position. I was placed on a seventh-eighth grade loop with a great team of teachers. In this school, all teachers were teachers of Reading, so I taught only one period of Reading and four periods of Language Arts. It was great, but I thought I should be teaching all of the kids on the team reading, so for my second loop, we switched it up. I began teaching all 85 students reading and then each of the team teachers (and I) taught a section of Language Arts.
At the end of my fourth year at Heritage and my tenth year of teaching, I decided that I was ready for a change yet again. I love teaching middle school, and I LOVED my team....it was so hard to leave, but I knew I was not loving grading papers anymore. A position for literacy coach opened up at an elementary school right in my district and I felt that it was time....
That brings me to Emerson Elementary. I'm not sure just yet where this journey will take me, but I'm excited to learn, grow, listen, implement, and share ideas with a new group of colleagues!
I hope this blog serves as a record of the great work we will do with literacy at Emerson and also a place to learn and share ideas together.