In this Q&A, Scholastic Professional authors and education specialists respond to a series of questions about inspirational messages they’d like to share with fellow educators in 2021, and what keeps them moving forward. Read their responses below.
What is one message that you’d like to share with all educators heading into 2021?
“One message: That now, more than ever, powerful partnerships between families and educators are integral to the educational success of our students and schools. Building relationships of trust and respect between home and school is the key foundational step to the building of these important partnerships.” – Dr. Karen L. Mapp, Senior Lecturer on Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and co-author of Powerful Partnerships: A Teacher's Guide to Engaging Families for Student Success
“Our hope for 2021. Leave your fears and frustrations behind and embrace the power of joyful shared reading experiences. Create incredible reading opportunities for your students every day which helps them build their reading foundation. Begin your new year by turning your classroom (in-person or virtual) into a reading playground—a learning space where you and your students can sing, dance, and celebrate dynamic words and texts. Transform 2021 to focus on—joy!” – New York Times bestselling original author of the Pete the Cat series Eric Litwin & award-winning K–3 reading teacher Dr. Gina Pepin, co-authors of The Power of Joyful Reading: Help Your Young Readers Soar to Success!
“Make a difference. Be kind to yourself and to others. Be mindful of how you respond to challenges life presents.” – Cecilia Espinosa, associate professor at Lehman College, City University of New York, and co-author of Rooted in Strength, slated for release in 2021
“Remember why you first started teaching. We don’t teach math or reading, we teach humans! The skills may be a bit behind, but as humans, we are always growing. Focusing on individual needs one step at a time will still sprout growth.” – Melissa Cheesman Smith, teacher at the elementary and college level, and co-author of The Megabook of Fluency: Strategies and Texts to Engage All Readers
“Teaching reading is both an art and a science. We need to follow the science, while also remembering that every day in our classrooms we are striving to create joyful readers — children who can read and who love to read!” – Timothy Rasinski, professor of literacy education at Kent State University, member of the Reading Hall of Fame, and co-author of The Megabook of Fluency: Strategies and Texts to Engage All Readers
“When I reflect on where we've been since March, where we are now, and where we are going, I find one word that summarizes teachers, students, and administrators. Resilient. I am overwhelmed and inspired by the resilience of dedicated teachers, eager students, and determined administrators to find creative and adaptive ways to continue the learning so crucial for all. That is what I will remember — the resilient spirit of educators and students to carry on in the face of unprecedented challenges. Well done, kudos, and thank you all.” – Ellen Lewis, reading specialist, Reading Recovery® teacher, and co-author of RISE & RISE Up: Reading Inspires Students to Excel
What inspires you to keep moving forward?
“I am inspired by leaders and educators who are driven to center equity, anti-racism and culturally & historically responsive education throughout their schools. This helps our children of color who have been marginalized in schools and communities, but it also benefits all. The hope for a better educational system, including standards and curriculum, makes me excited to keep doing the work.” – Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, associate professor at Georgia State University and author of Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy
“I remember not always being able to get books as a child because my family and I were new refugees struggling to make ends meet. When we saved up enough money, and I was able to get a new book, I remember picking it out and how special that was. When I became a teacher and principal, I knew how important it would be to surround my students with books that they would love. This motivates me to help educators empower all kids — especially our immigrants and refugees — in their pursuit of the American Dream, one book at a time.” – Don Vu, elementary school principal and author of Life, Literacy, and the Pursuit of Happiness, slated for release April 2021
“Witnessing the resilience of families, communities, and teachers keeps me going. Together we can creatively rebuild and reimagine a more just world.” – Laura Ascenzi-Moreno, associate professor and the bilingual program coordinator at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and co-author of Rooted in Strength, slated for release in 2021
“I grew up in a community devastated by poverty, so early on I recognized education as a way up and a way out. My drive to keep going is predicated upon the idea that when children have unfettered, equitable access to rich and rigorous instruction in ecosystems sensitive to their individual needs, they will not only meet expectations, they will also exceed widely accepted stereotypes and preconceived notions about their capacity.” – Dr. Donyall Dickey, Chief Executive Officer of Educational Epiphany and contributing author of Scholastic Literacy
“Looking back inspires me to look forward. By that I mean, all the “bad” things of 2020 help me appreciate even more the good things. Because I didn’t travel much this past year and didn’t speak at conferences, I was able to focus on my passion — teaching children to read. I volunteered to help striving readers who were in danger of falling behind their classmates. Since April 1 I have taught over 250 virtual guided reading lessons! There’s joy in returning to our roots — remembering who we are (teachers), what we do (teach), and why we do it (because of the children).” – Jan Richardson, educational consultant, Reading Recovery® teacher leader, bestselling author of The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading, and co-author of RISE & RISE Up: Reading Inspires Students to Excel