Teacher Talk


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In August 2017, the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) released its Social Justice Book List, containing over 200 titles spanning all levels of education. Over sixty educators hand-selected these books, nominating those that they have successfully used in the classroom to teach social justice skills and concepts to their students. We are proud to report that over a quarter of the books that appear on the list are published by Penguin Random House. Click here for a compilation of all PRH titles featured on NNSTOY’s list. (more…)

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9780812993547Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book-length essay on race in America presented as a letter to his teenage son, is one of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) selections for their Social Justice Book List. Abdul Wright, the 2017 Minnesota State Teacher of the Year and NNSTOY member, explains why this book was chosen:

In Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s portrayal of the African American story is an explicit and compellingly sincere narrative on what it means to be an African American male in American society.

The book is a letter to his Black son, and Coates is unabashed in his pride for him in this work that serves as both advice and warning to him. “The entire narrative of this country argues against the truth of who you are,” he writes. (more…)

9780805210156 I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a collection of drawings and poems made by the children held at the Terezin Concentration Camp from 1942 to 1944, is one of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) selections for their Social Justice Book List. Katherine Bassett, the CEO and President of NNSTOY and 2000 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year, writes on her own experience of sharing the book with her middle school students:

As a librarian I have long been struck by the power of books. Books can fill us with joy, bring us to tears, move us to action. Some books change the way we look at the world.

A book that profoundly changed me and many of my students is I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944, edited by Hana Volavkova. (more…)

9780804189354By Karen Kingrea, STEM Director at Immaculata Catholic School

Growing up outside Houston, Texas in the ’60s and ’70s, it is no surprise that I developed a love of space exploration and NASA. During my thirty-five years in education, I have furthered this passion whenever possible by attending NASA workshops and conference sessions across the country. Thus, it was with great excitement that I read The Martian by Andy Weir last summer. The book was everything I hoped it would be and more. My only regret was that it was not appropriate for my middle school students to read. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to learn that a classroom edition of The Martian exists. After seeing the movie as well, I knew that Mars would be our theme for the 2016–2017 school year. (more…)

9780812978186By Krista McKim, AP® Language and Composition teacher at Rockville High School in Rockville, MD

On March 24, 2018, 40 students from Rockville High School came to enjoy a performance of Ragtime at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Each student received a copy of the book by E. L. Doctorow. They read the book on their own time, and they all came together to talk about it before they saw the play. After the performance, Stephen F. Schmidt, an actor who played various characters and who is also a  teaching artist at the Ford’s Theatre, came to visit and give them a glimpse of the show from behind the scenes. As a result of these experiences, students thought deeply about the choices writers and directors make to bring a book to life.  They analyzed how Doctorow integrated historical and fictional characters, and they learned how a book goes from the page to the stage. (more…)

9780804189767 (1)By Ricki Weisfelner, an art teacher at Woodward Parkway Elementary School who utilized President George W. Bush’s Portraits of Courage as a teaching tool for her students.

Inspired by former President George W. Bush’s book, Portraits of Courage, a collection of paintings of and essays about U.S. veterans, I thought it would be a great idea to have veterans model for our young artists here at Woodward Parkway and use George W. Bush as the artist of inspiration. My idea: while students were painting the portraits, they would interview the veterans and create a short biographical essay. Several classroom teachers helped students prepare questions to ask the veterans, read stories of vets, and encouraged the children to wear red, white, and blue to their next art class. The administration sent a letter to parents, soliciting volunteers to model. We had the help of many school families, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, and my own personal family and friends. Twenty-two veterans came to pose for the twenty-three classes I teach. (more…)

By Gillian Schneider, a teacher at Neuqua Valley High School and the recipient of the 2016 Penguin Random House Maya Angelou Teacher Award for Poetry.

maya angelouSitting at the NCTE secondary luncheon in November 2015, I found an application for the Penguin Random House Literacy Awards, including the Maya Angelou Poetry Award. I did not have a concrete idea of what I might propose, but by spring, I decided that I would make every effort to come up with something to support poetry awareness. I asked colleagues to read my application and suggest changes, and I asked students to help me with letters of support and haiku. The grant idea for “So You Want Me to Love Poetry? YES!” began as an appeal to students to stop saying “No” to poetry and start saying “Yes!” Once I submitted all of the required elements, I distracted myself. (more…)

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