Newsela <3s Teachers

From our offices to yours, Newsela wants to wish you a happy Teacher Appreciation Week. To celebrate, we asked our bookish staff which teachers helped them learn to love reading and how.

From our Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, Dan Cogan-Drew

When Ms. Sussman, my 6th-grade teacher, told the class that we were going to be reading “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, I was simultaneously terrified that I wouldn't understand it and also frustrated that we were going to spend so much time on a book that I was sure was going to be boring. I was completely wrong. She was a tough teacher and commanded serious respect from our class.

She would patrol the classroom with a rolled up newspaper while we were reading aloud. If you started to nod off or distract your classmate, you would feel her presence over your shoulder like the way you hair stands on end when there's lightning in the air. Then - smack! - you'd get the newspaper roll on your head. It was as funny as it was dramatic. The class would look up, quietly giggle, and then she would redirect us. "If you don't pay attention, I'm going to r-e-i-g-n down on you. Now back to reading."

It sounds harsh, but we LOVED Ms. Sussmann. My friend Randy went so far as to get her a happy birthday wish published in the footer of The New York Times (when they used to do that sort of thing). She loved owls, so he wrote: "Happy Birthday Ms. Sussman, from your owlets in 6S." Now that's love.

From the Newsela PRO Team, Mike Mitchell

Interestingly, this happened much later in life - when I was doing my MBA at the University of Georgia. We were assigned to read the book "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis. It would be kind to say I am not a fan of baseball (basketball and football are my sports of choice), so I wasn't thrilled with this assignment. I'd rather watch paint dry than endure a baseball game.

Our professor, however, showed me that the book was as much about mathematics, strategy and creative disruption as it was about baseball. By keeping my focus on those elements of the story, my professor helped me gain the desired insights from the assignment. Upon reflection after finishing the book, I was pleasantly surprised how much I had actually enjoyed reading it. I guess it is true - you cannot judge a book by its cover (or assumed topic).

From our Content Team, Haiy Le

I didn’t think I would enjoy a “chick lit” novel like “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, but the class discussions in Ms. Wunderlich and Mrs. Travieso’s combined World History and English class helped me see how the novel brilliantly expressed commentary on British social life during the 19th century.

From our Content Team, Patricia Velazquez

Mr. Ralph García taught me to read. Read critically, that is. My 11th grade Spanish teacher used "El amor en los tiempos del cólera” (Love in the Time of Cholera) by Gabriel García Márquez to help me look past what is explicitly stated in a text and explore beyond that. By challenging me to read critically, I learned to think critically, which helped improve my writing skills. His passion for teaching a language course inspired everyone in his classes. I went on to obtain undergraduate and graduate degrees in Spanish Language and Literature, and this I owe in part to that first nudge I received from Ralph.

From our Community Team, Ted Palenski

When I was first assigned to read “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville, I was very intimidated. It’s an extremely long tome, dealing with all facets of whaling. Going to school in a seaside town highlighted in the novel made it somewhat relatable, but how Ms. Michelsen brought this book to life, such that it was relevant to us as a group of high schoolers, left me craving more thematic literature that, while written decades ago, remains relevant.

From our Community Team, Nicole Boyle

My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Mogensen, assigned us all chapter books to take home and read. We had to read the first chapter for homework. I didn't want to read “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley because the cover was scary, but she said to take it home and try it and, if I didn't like it, I could exchange the next day. (Looking back on it, it was definitely assigned to me because it was the just right level for me.) I took it home, complained to my mom, who also told me to read the first chapter. That night, I started reading it and LOVED it. I stayed up late with a flashlight and read the entire novel. Needless to say, I learned never to judge a book by its cover and it was at that moment that I knew I would be a reader for life.

From our Marketing Team, Shohini Bhattacharya

My favorite classroom reading memories are of seventh-grade English with Mr. Ken Ronkowitz. The formal name of the class was Integrated Reading and Language Arts, and as such, Mr. Ronkowitz was a stickler for vocabulary drills and close reading. His detailed comprehension tests were legendary. But he also made stories come alive, and I vividly remember how moved I was by “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor, “The Pigman” by Paul Zindel, and even William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. I ended up performing Lady Capulet's "What Say You?" monologue in front of the class, and to this day, I can’t resist a great extended metaphor.

Do any of the tactics our staff mentioned sound familiar to you? Let us know how you get students revved up about reading by tweeting @Newsela and using the hashtag #thankateacher.

How Newsela Inspired Janet Jeffries' 5th-Graders to Become Activists

How Newsela Inspired Janet Jeffries' 5th-Graders to Become Activists

Text Sets for Literature

Text Sets for Literature