One of the most unexpected treats of starting SSR and building a community of readers around it has been getting the chance to reconnect with people from different chapters (get it?) of my life. Erin Kuhn has been one of those people, and she just happens to be this month’s…
Erin and I went to high school together and shared lots of mutual friends, but we didn’t stay in touch very much after graduation outside of social media. When I launched the podcast last year, Erin was kind enough to be one of my biggest cheerleaders! I was reminded during that time that Erin had gone on to become a teacher, and I’ve so appreciated her feedback and book recommendations throughout this SSR journey.
With that in mind, I am SO excited to give you a glimpse of the impact that Erin is making with her elementary schoolers. Teachers, you know how I feel about you — you’re the real MVPs — and I absolutely love shining a spotlight on your work each month. (Check out the last Teacher Features here and here).
Erin lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with her husband and her adorable cat, Fuzz Lightyear (can you even handle that name?!). She coaches Girls on the Run and has recently been working her behind off training for her first — and probably her last, she says — half marathon in Disney in November. She loves practicing yoga and spending “an unnerving amount of time” snuggling her cat and binge watching series after series. Relatable! Every year, Erin and her husband go on an Oscar-nominated movie marathon. They try to see every movie that’s been nominated for Best Picture! They also celebrate Sundae Sunday throughout the summer by going to local creameries for an ice cream date every Sunday. That’s a date night tradition I can really support.
Tell us more about your life as a teacher! Where do you teach? What grades/ages/subjects?
I teach at Bainbridge Elementary in the Elizabethtown Area School District. I've taught second grade for the last seven years, but my eighth year has brought on a lot of changes! I am now part of a personalized learning initiative for second and third grade students. I also have my master's degree in Language and Literacy.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a teacher (except for a brief period of time when I wanted to be an "Egyptologist"... is that even a thing? I was honestly just obsessed with learning about ancient Egypt and watching The Mummy). I worked with children in various ways throughout middle school, high school, and college. As I was leaving my first observation of a classroom during my freshman year in college, this *feeling* came over me. I called my mom in tears letting her know that I’d found the right job for me. I had no idea why I felt like that, but I just knew.
We were asked this question A LOT throughout my education and my answer always comes back to the passion I have for working with children. I want to be a teacher because I know how it feels to be an unsuccessful student and then one day... it clicks. I want to be that person that doesn't give up on my students like many of my teachers didn't give up on me. I want the children that I work with to feel loved and know that the relationship we share matters. I wanted to become a teacher in order to help facilitate student success.
What do you most remember about your favorite teacher from childhood?
My favorite teacher was Ms. Cortez. Ms. Cortez was my choir director and music teacher throughout middle school and high school. I love singing, but I am very well-aware that I was never the best singer in the bunch. However, I kept auditioning and Ms. Cortez kept having faith in my passion. I messed up many solo performances (darn those nerves!) and yet she continued to give me another chance. I would stay after school just to talk to her and she would actually stay to talk to me! I now understand how much she was giving up in her own life in order to help solve all the problems of my teenage world. She even invited me to visit her home over the summer and I helped clean out her cabinets while she listened to me talk. That poor woman dealt with my dramatic self for seven years and I would absolutely not be the woman I am today without her influence and guidance!
What was your favorite book when you were growing up?
The Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket
What is your favorite book to share with your students?
The BFG by Roald Dahl (I have a pretty phenomenal BFG voice — haha!)
What book do you think every teacher should be reading with their students?
Any book that leads to meaningful discussion and a better understanding of the world we live in... or a book that brings a lot of laughs like the The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak.
How do you cultivate a love of reading with your students?
I cultivate a love of reading in my classroom with honesty and exposure. It is important to know that I HATED reading as a child. I hated it because I struggled to learn how to read (which was hard for my mom to handle because she is an avid reader). The picture book Freight Train brings back so many real memories of anxiety during first grade for me. I could not read any of the train car names from that book and my teacher yelled at me for not knowing the words. I share that experience with my students because there are children in my classroom that feel the same way.
It wasn't until I was in fifth grade that I picked up a book to read all by myself for enjoyment, and I wouldn't have done that if my teacher hadn’t read aloud the first three books of the Series of Unfortunate Events series. Don't get me wrong — that series was HARD for me to read, but I was so invested in the characters that I had to keep reading to find out what happened to them! Read aloud books are a priority in my day. I try to read two to three books a day to students in hopes that one will be "the book" that makes them want to read more.
I also think it is important for students to see me read. If there is SSR time, then I like to read my own book while they are reading their books. I think that shows students that I believe reading is meaningful and not something for them to do to fill in time throughout the day. I'm also a huge fan of costumes. Any time I can dress up as a character and read a book to my students... I'm in!
What is your favorite episode of The SSR Podcast?
What is the best book you've read recently outside of the classroom?
I'm currently reading Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. So far, it has been a great reminder about how I react to student behavior and how my reaction impacts them.
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