Teacher. Writer. Reader.
I grew up in West Michigan and earned my Bachelor's degree in English and Secondary Education certification from Calvin College. In January 2010, I packed up my belongings (not including 13 boxes of books that were shipped separately!) and moved to Central Florida to begin my teaching career.
I have experience teaching Language Arts & Reading (and even World History) for grades 6-12, but my heart is with the middle school-- especially eighth grade.
When I was in sixth grade, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. Over the next five years, his illness grew progressively worse. As a teenager, I struggled with coping with my dad's cancer while also finding my way through adolescence. I began a blog on Xanga to chronicle my thoughts and experiences, which soon grew to be an important creative outlet for reflection and poetry. It was a way to express myself while also sharing with friends, family and teachers what I was really going through. Even after my dad passed away when I was a senior in high school, the deep need to write persisted.
As an educator, I'm passionate about teaching students to grow as writers, just as two influential high school teachers, Mrs. Rooks and Mr. Hiskes, helped me strengthen my own writing skills. I teach the Writing Process explicitly and go into depth with the expository and argumentative forms of essays, yet weekly Free Write Friday journal entries carve a space for students to write their own stories and share with me about their lives.
I wasn't always a reader; in fact, I didn't begin to read on my own until I was in the second grade. While the delay was partially due to hearing impairment, Mrs. Becksvoort made reading fun and exciting. I remember her bright, sunny classroom had so many books, and suddenly it was a whole new world available right within my reach!
My classroom library is currently stocked with around 1,000 books (850+ unique titles), with new ones being added every month. My latest venture has been the Million Word Challenge - and it has totally reframed my idea of what it means to teach reading!
My favorite novels to teach include The Outsiders, To Kill a Mockingbird, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Code Talker, and The Revealers. I also love doing a dystopian literature circle unit with my students after teaching The Giver!