In 2012, a few weeks after I first became editor-in-chief of Instructor magazine, I met a woman named Marilyn Schutz, the publisher of The Big Deal Book. Marilyn put her hands on my shoulders and said, “You’ve been entrusted with an incredible legacy. Honor it.”
About a week later, a package arrived at my office. In it were two copies of Instructor—one from 1925 and the other from 1932—along with a note of congratulations from Marilyn. In that moment, the weight of my responsibility to the publication sank in.
A bit of history:
In October 1891 a schoolmaster named Frederick A. Owen published The Normal Instructor in South Dansville, NY. Owen intended the publication to replicate the training programs found in teachers’ colleges (then called normal schools) in rural areas without access to them. It quickly grew into a vibrant idea exchange through which teachers shared their most effective lessons.
The magazine changed editors, owners, and even names several times until Scholastic published its first issue in January 1990. That’s when it became simply Instructor, a name that has remained for 25 years.
My first task as editor of Instructor was to examine the content—to make sure that every article, lesson idea, printable resource, and craft we publish is useful, inspiring, and delightful for our teachers, who are busy professionals without a lot of extra free time. I challenged my editorial team to make sure everything in the magazine is worth a teacher’s while, that she will get something she can use in her classroom right away out of it.
In the three years I’ve been editor, I’m proud of the work we’ve done to make the magazine engaging, relevant, and useful but one thing has always nagged at me. I have never met a teacher who refers to herself as an instructor (and I meet a LOT of teachers). For all the work we’d done to modernize the inside of the magazine, the name on the outside felt like a vestige of a bygone era.
I felt we needed a new, more contemporary name and Scholastic Teacher seemed the perfect fit. However, in the back of my mind I heard Marilyn’s voice urging me to honor the legacy with which I had been entrusted. I didn’t feel I could make such a dramatic change on my own. So, I turned to the people I rely on most in my work: teachers.
I called on our teacher advisory panel and sent a survey to more than 1400 subscribers. Overwhelmingly, 80% preferred the name Scholastic Teacher.
It was after receiving this feedback that I realized, a legacy is a gift from the past, but the responsibility is to carry the gift forward to the future.
Marilyn’s framed copies of Instructor hang on my office wall. I look forward to soon hanging the first issue of Scholastic Teacher beside them.
In the meantime, here's a brief history of our 124-year-old magazine: