When I first launched the blog earlier this summer, I put out a call within the SSR community for top-notch teacher nominations. I wanted to learn more about teachers working hard in all kinds of schools and classrooms to cultivate a love of learning — and, of course, reading! — among their students. The nominations came rollllllling in, and I had the chance to read stories about so many fabulous educators who are out there doing the most important job I can think of. I can’t wait to continue profiling these teachers on the blog!
One teacher, in particular, received a whole bunch of nominations, both from people who know her IRL and from people who follow her on bookstagram (@onlaughterandliteracy). It’s my honor to introduce you to Jessica Schnebelt as the subject of this month’s…
Jessica is married to one of her high school best friends. They are proud parents to two kitties and love to travel the world! Her favorite thing is to experience and learn new things through traveling and books.
You’ll learn more about Jessica’s amazingly creative approach to teaching kids to love reading as you scroll (a book tasting? yes, please!), but in the meantime, I want to thank her for taking the time out of her busy back-to-school season to share her story with me. THANK YOU!
Tell us more about your life as a teacher! Where do you teach? What grades/ages/subjects?
I teach seventh grade writing and eighth grade reading in Phoenix, Arizona. I am lucky enough that I've had the opportunity to loop with my students — so my sixth graders two years ago were my seventh graders last year and my eighth graders this year!
What inspired you to become a teacher?
My mom. My mom was a middle school teacher. She was so good at what she did, and I admired her so much, so I think it became a natural path for me. When it came down to it, it truly was the only path I knew I would follow.
What do you most remember about your favorite teacher from childhood?
I have been so lucky to have so many great teachers, it's hard to choose just one! The one memory that always sticks out to me, though, was of my fourth grade teacher. She had just donated her lung to her daughter who had cystic fibrosis. The transplant didn't take, and her daughter, sadly, passed away. When my teacher returned, she had to use a microphone because the transplant had made it difficult for her to breathe and speak loudly. She read The BFG to us and it was one of the most engaging read-alouds I've ever experienced. Her willingness to still engage with us after a time of tragedy really stuck with me, as did everything by Roald Dahl.
What is your favorite book to share with your students?
There are SO many! My favorites to teach are Number the Stars and The Giver. My favorite format to share with students is verse. I love being able to introduce new styles of writing they might not already be familiar with.
What book do you think every teacher should be reading with their students?
Refugee. Not only is it relevant, it also teaches so many important life lessons — acceptance, resiliency, empathy, and humility. Not to mention the fact that it is PERFECT for teaching the elements of plot and the way Gratz ties together three storylines....just perfection.
How do you cultivate a love of reading with your students?
I get to know my students as individuals. In order for them to love reading, they need to know that I care about them and KNOW them well enough to recommend the right book. I believe that every student needs to be seen and my way of doing that is through book recommendations. I also talk about books lovingly, make students personalized bookmarks, and take time in class to share the LOVE of books. This might look like a book tasting, creating a TBR list, reading the first chapter of a new book out loud, or simply sharing with them what I'm currently reading. We take time every single day to read for pleasure and we set personal reading goals that we celebrate each quarter. I want students to become lifelong readers as opposed to lifelong test takers, so I value and put in the time to allow students to enjoy the act of reading.
What is the best book you've read recently outside of the classroom?
A student and I buddy read the young readers’ edition of Notorious RBG and LOVED it.
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