Teacher Feature: Kate Czyzewski

It’s back-to-school week for so many teachers and students around the country, and I can’t think of a better time to roll out our second-ever…

Teacher Feature!

(Check out the last one here).

Our August spotlight teacher Kate Czyzewski — who you may know better from bookstagram as @thesaltybookworm — was nominated by multiple people! In addition to our love of books, Kate and I have bonded throughout the last year over a shared love of the Jersey shore, so I was thrilled to see her name pop up when I put out the call for nominations last month.

You’ll learn more about Kate’s life in the classroom as you scroll, but you should also know that she’s on a mission with her bookstagram pal Nikki (AKA @saturday_nite_reader) to spread a love of reading throughout the Garden State! “I feel so strongly that books are making a comeback in a big way, especially with how many first-time authors are being published,” Kate says. “It’s a great year for reading!”

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A few years ago, Kate got news of an untimely diagnosis, and since then, she’s been embracing and making time for what brings her joy: all things books! She spends the summers at the Jersey Shore (a girl after my own heart!), where she loves to visit the Little Free Libraries that tend to be quieter in the off-season. If you happen upon one of those Little Free Libraries and see a children’s classic there, it might just be from Kate!

I love being along for the bookstagram ride as Kate spreads her love of reading, and it’s my honor to take a moment to celebrate that and all of the amazing things she does for her students in this Teacher Feature. Thanks for all of your hard work, Kate!

Tell us more about your life as a teacher! Where do you teach? What grades/ages/subjects?

I teach at Livingston Public Schools in Livingston, New Jersey. I teach seventh grade Special Education and Language Arts. I am a resource room and in-class support teacher.

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What inspired you to become a teacher?

My grandmother! She was a kindergarten teacher for almost forty years. She was the epitome of a great teacher through and through. She “played school” with me and my brother before we actually went to school! Not only has she inspired my calling as a teacher, she has helped make me a lifelong reader. As each new school year begins, I think of her fondly and hope that I am making her proud.

What do you most remember about your favorite teacher from childhood?

Some of my favorite teachers are those from my elementary school days. My second and third grade teachers — Mrs. Schefter and Mrs. Machesca — were inspiring. I remember them always being so ecstatic about whatever it was we were learning for the day. They were also structured and ran well-organized classrooms. As a teacher now, I admire their balance of fun with what were also very formative years of learning critical skills.

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What was your favorite book when you were growing up?

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. It's probably one of the more simplistic children's books written, but it is one that is always a go-to for me. It reminds me to enjoy the small moments in life. Something as simple as a snowy day can have a lasting memory!

What is your favorite book to share with your students? What book do you think every teacher should be reading with their students?

My favorite is The Outsiders, which we study every fall with my students. This is a book that makes some of my non-readers into readers. I get so excited to share the friendship of Ponyboy and Johnny with them. They are always impressed to know that S.E. Hinton was only in high school when her publishing deal came through!

FUn fact: Kate’s dog is named Boo Radley!

FUn fact: Kate’s dog is named Boo Radley!

I have two answers to this question about books that other teachers should be sharing with their students. For elementary teachers, I suggest Charlotte's Web. This book teaches us that friendship can be found in the most unlikely of places. It also cultivates a love for animals. For the older students, I believe every student should read To Kill a Mockingbird. I know it tends to be a go-to classic for many, but the themes discussed in this book still hold true today. A must-read!

How do you cultivate a love of reading with your students?

This is a constant work in progress for me as a teacher, especially in special education. I work with some students who struggle with reading, so reading is something that, at times, gives them anxiety. In the past few years, since starting @thesaltybookworm and @gardenstatebookswap, I've used the idea of social media to cultivate an excitement about reading. I believe that reading doesn't have to be an "alone" activity. When the students see me getting excited about a new book release or an author visit at school, they get excited, too. Readalouds are so important and underrated. When we begin our first novel unit each year, I take my students to my reading corner and read aloud the entire first chapter with them. Like any book that any of us read, it has to engage us from Chapter 1!

What is your favorite episode of The SSR Podcast?

The Face on the Milk Carton and The Outsiders episodes

What is the best book you've read recently outside of the classroom?

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

**Please note that the Amazon links above are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through these links. Please do not feel inclined to purchase unless you are excited to add these books to your TBR list!** 

Teacher Feature: Juli Stellato

Since the very beginning of the podcast, teachers have been a wonderful, active part of the SSR community. I’ve been consistently amazed by the wonderful conversations I’ve had about books and reading with so many educators via social media. In celebration of that (and because teachers are literally doing the most important job in the world), each month on the blog, you’ll find a…

Teacher feature!

This monthly series will give us a chance to learn more about the teachers in our community, the work they’re doing, and the books they love. I’m so excited about it! If there’s a teacher in your life who you’d like to nominate for an SSR blog Teacher Feature, please drop me a note! In the meantime, though, we’re kicking off the series with Juli Stellato, a first grade teacher in the Bethlehem Area School District in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

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Juli just happens to be my sister (technically my stepsister, but we don’t like to use that word), and I’m so proud of her passion for her students. Outside of the classroom, she’s also pursuing her master’s degree in educational leadership with a principal certification at Lehigh University (smarty pants!). Juli will finish her degree next May, and you can bet that our whole family will be cheering louder than anyone else in the room when that happens! In her free time, she enjoys working out, running, traveling, and photography. Learn more about Juli’s work on her teacher Instagram and Twitter… and keep scrolling! Love you, Jul!

Tell us more about your life as a teacher! Where do you teach? What grades/ages/subjects?

I started my career teaching fourth grade at Fountain Hill Elementary School in the Bethlehem Area School District. I am "built by Bethlehem," having graduated from Liberty High School, so it was very special for me to receive a job within my hometown district. After my first year, I taught second grade in Fountain Hill. I will move to first grade for the upcoming school year, and I am very excited! I have loved every moment thus far in my teaching career, and I’m really starting to realize the impact I have on these young minds.

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What inspired you to become a teacher?

I sincerely love kids — it's truly that simple! I knew I was going to be a teacher from the second I could imagine myself with a job. I played around with a few other careers briefly, but I have always been led back to teaching. My grandmother, a teacher herself, always told me it was my calling, and I believe she was right!

What do you most remember about your favorite teacher from childhood?

As a kid, you always remember the teachers who go above and beyond for you. I have a handful of favorite teachers, and every memory of them revolves around the strong relationship we built. I am still in contact with some of them today, since we now actually teach alongside each other! You remember the teachers who love you and take the time to build a relationship with you.

What was your favorite book when you were growing up?

I was obsessed with Junie B. Jones as a kid!

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What is your favorite book to share with your students? What book do you think every teacher should be reading with their students?

Wonder by R.J. Palacio — I’ve said over and over again that this book is magical for young learners.

How do you cultivate a love of reading with your students?

I have learned in my time teaching both fourth and second grade that no matter what age they are, children love to be read to. I try to pick a book a year — if not two — to read aloud during any extra minutes we have at the end of each day. This shows students my love for reading, and allows them to become invested in a book. I also try to practice what I preach, so if I give the students a few minutes to read their library book (SSR!), I am finding a book to read, too. Even if the book is for my graduate classes, it still counts!

What is your favorite episode of The SSR Podcast?

I love them all, but I received a personal shout-out in the Charlotte's Web episode, so that may be my favorite!

What is the best book you've read recently outside of the classroom?

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis truly changed my life in all the wonderful ways it could have.

**Please note that the Amazon links above are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through these links. Please do not feel inclined to purchase unless you are excited to add these books to your TBR list!**