Teaching & Classroom

How I Teach: A career path forged from second grade misery

Welcome to December’s How I Teach newsletter!

We often hear from teachers about a beloved educator whose compassion clinched their decision to enter the profession. Bonnie Anderson’s story is a little different. The Texas music teacher decided to go into education because of just how mean her second-grade teacher was — she even had a three-walled compartment built around Anderson’s desk to keep her from seeing other students.

“Even though my self-esteem plummeted, I was determined to become a teacher so that I could be a nice one,” Anderson said.

Don’t worry: It’s a sad story with a happy ending. Anderson is now an award-winning teacher in San Antonio, an evangelist of the marimba, a xylophone-like percussion instrument, and a believer in teaching methods that don’t hew to every state standard.

Enjoy your holiday break!

— Ann

In their own words

Photo: TN.gov

MELISSA MILLER, first grade, Franklin, Tennessee
Tennessee’s teacher of the year talks about her passion for teaching kids to read, her love of scented markers, and her realization that parents need to hear about behavior problems in the classroom right away.

BONNIE ANDERSON, elementary music, San Antonio, Texas
She was already a veteran teacher when she discovered the marimba, a xylophone-like instrument she relies on to help her students develop teamwork and to tap into African and Latin American history.

MAXINE KENNEBREW, high school science, Detroit
Kennebrew used to train auto factory workers how to use robots for manufacturing. Now she’s using some of the same lessons, plus visits from professionals who use science in their daily lives, to engage students.

AMY JONES, kindergarten, Craig, Colorado
Jones’ students in rural Colorado learn how people live India, Germany, and Australia by sending paper dolls through a “magical classroom portal” and following them on Twitter.

Other stories you might have missed

MORE MONEY MATTERS New research shows that extra money consistently improves student outcomes. Its author says it’s time to focus on understanding what kind of spending matters most. More

ROCKY READING ROAD A perfect storm of factors, ranging from personal trauma to insufficient special education services, contributed to the heartbreaking struggles of Javion Grayer, a 16-year-old Chicago student who reads at the second-grade level. More

STUDENT-RESEARCHERS A team that includes Newark high school students is talking to local teens “in a language they understand” about why one-third of students are chronically absent. More

BLACK STUDENT, BLACK TEACHER A New York City parent describes how her daughter blossomed when she got a second-grade teacher who looked like her. More


The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League” by Jeff Hobbs. Recommended by Michael Lindsey, executive director of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University. “I believe the book is a cautionary tale … Even while we emphasize the importance of education as a gateway to long-term success for youth at-risk, these youth have to also internalize the importance of future orientation: How what they do in the here-and-now, both in and out of the classroom, matters tomorrow and in the years beyond.”

The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives” by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson. Recommended by Amity Goss, director of instruction for Old Saybrook Public Schools in Connecticut. “Empowered kids are happy kids. The Self-Driven Child is a down-to-earth look at the benefits of giving kids more control over their lives.”

Bold School: Old School Wisdom + New School Technologies = Blended Learning That Works” by Weston Kieschnick. Recommended by Rachel Neckermann, a sixth grade science teacher in Cameron, North Carolina, who said it’s “a great read that gives excellent ideas for implementing successful blended learning in your classroom.”

Do you have a reading recommendation for other educators? Let me know what it is and why you liked it, and I may feature your suggestion in a future newsletter. Just send me an email at aschimke@chalkbeat.org.