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…
(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!”
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.
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.
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!
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?
What is the best book you've read recently outside of the classroom?
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
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