This week's featured teacher is Karen Taylor, an English teacher at Horizon Middle School in Moorhead. Karen completed her Summer Institute in 2010. While reading about Karen in this post, I hope you will learn a bit about Karen's interests and beliefs about teaching. Karen says she finds most of her teaching inspiration through her "amazing, thoughtful, caring, smart" colleagues at Horizon. She is also deeply inspired by Kelly Gallagher, whose ideas she finds practical and effective in preparing students to "take ownership in the world around them and participate in their community." Hopefully you can find some inspiration from Karen's philosophies and interests in reading and writing!
Karen is currently reading a variety of books to inform her teaching as well as her own reading interests. Some books that she has just finished that she thinks her students might like are Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, a realistic fiction novel, and This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, a graphic novel. While Karen, herself, prefers realistic fiction, she knows that her students have other genre preferences, so she tries to read a variety of genres so she is able to provide her students with diverse suggestions geared toward their own interests.
Karen says that she also reads to develop as an educator, which is why she is currently reading Developing Readers in the Academic Disciplines by Doug Buehl so she can further expand her knowledge of ways to engage students as readers. According to Karen, she reads "because it engages [her] mind and helps [her] develop background knowledge, skills and insights that help [her] in [her] personal and professional life. Reading satisfies [her] natural curiosity and [her] occasional desire to escape into someone else's world or experiences."
Karen tries to instill this love for reading into her students by keeping a large, comprehensive classroom library to help students read for enjoyment rather than feeling like it is something they have to do. She says that she also "provide[s] an environment where reading is the norm; it is something students can talk about and get excited about." In order to promote this environment, Karen reads snippets, does book talks, shows book trailers, and discusses her own reading interests with students. It is important for Karen to provide her students with choice in what they read, so she does everything she can to guide them to make choices that spark their interest in reading.
As for writing, Karen feels that at this time she does not have as many opportunities to write outside of instructional planning, professional development, and reflection. She enjoys writing short fiction and poetry, so she hopes she can someday make more of an effort to develop this interest. While she feels that she does not have much time for her own personal writing habits, she has devoted more time toward developing her philosophy of teaching of writing. As she believes that writers write best from experience, curiosity, or passion, she makes sure to give her students opportunities to choose what they write about on a daily basis.