Author, teacher, coach, and 43-year veteran of teaching
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Segment I – Background and Inspiration
Tell your story. Where are you from and how long have you been teaching? What classes have you taught?
– Laura taught for 43 years, yet she still teaches about three months a year and does consulting and workshops because she loves being in the classroom. She loves seeing kids as they begin school (kindergarden or 1st grade) and loves seeing them at the end, before they embark to high school (8th grade). She had worked in advertising in New York City after graduating Queens College with a Bachelor’s in English and French. When her husband took a music job in Virginia, she moved with him and she obtained a teaching job in a rural school in Virginia. Laura was the only faculty member not related to the principal.
Who has helped you in your journey to become a master teacher?
– Laura has all of Donald Graves’ books. In her opinion, Donald trusts the children. It defies the concept of the sage on the stage. Graves shows the true collaboration of teaching that exists between teacher and student. She recommends to read his work. He has such respect for teachers and children and in today’s climate we have lost a lot of that. In Testing Is Not Teaching: What Should Count in Education, he argues that learning is not about a test but about creativity and encouragement.
It is important for other teachers to know that we all have had setbacks in the classroom. Identify an instance in which you struggled as a teacher and explain what you learned from that experience.
– Laura had a string of lessons that didn’t go as planned. It happened when she transitioned from being a 5th grade teacher to a middle school teacher. She lost a lot of reading time in the transition. She had to manage ways to get students to read during class and resulted in a book, Differentiated Reading Instruction.
What do you love about the Language Arts?
– Literacy is about communication and it is about learning and Laura can’t imagine life without either one. These are essential qualities to get a good job, be a productive citizen. The Language Arts holds our stories and we are a species that is all about stories. We think in terms of story, we a re programmed in terms of stories. It is what helps us learns about others.
What is one thing that you love about the classroom?
– She loves the energy in the room, especially when kids are doing different things and they come together to share what they’ve been working on.
Segment II — Digging into the Teacher Bag of Goodies
What book do you recommend to a developing teacher? —
Ralph Fletcher’s book on writing workshop, Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide is outstanding.
The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller is a great book about choice in reading. You should read that before reading her new book, Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits. Laura believes it is all about choice.
What is one thing a teacher can do outside the classroom that can pay off inside the classroom?
–She read children’s literature, discovering authors that she loved. It allowed her to brings books into the classroom. She also saw the importance of taking care of herself. She has always enjoyed hiking and being active. Laura emphasizes nurturing your own soul.
Is there an internet resource that you can recommend which will help teachers grow professionally?
– Laura uses the web more for students than for herself. She had her students create blogs and develop podcasts. She reads Edutopia, Middle Web, but basically she uses a lot of professional magazines and books.
What is a small thing that can produce big results with writing?
– Giving students choice when it comes to writing.
What book should be a part of the school curriculum?
— Red Kayak