Laura Bush: Spoken From the Heart

cvr9781439155202_9781439155202_lg[1][1]Anyone fascinated by presidential history, libraries, and teachers, whether Republican or Democrat, is bound to be interested in the recent opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Museum and Library last week in Dallas, Texas. It is times like this when I like to  remember that former First Lady Laura Bush was once a teacher and a librarian.

Laura Bush gives readers a wealth of detail about her experiences in her Texas classrooms, the libraries where she worked, and the annual National Book Festival she inaugurated in her 2011 autobiography, Spoken from the Heart. The book covers the other details of her life you would expect to find in an autobiography: her childhood and education, how she met and married George Bush, her difficulty conceiving and the eventual birth of her twins, her husband’s gubernatorial and presidential elections, and her role as First Lady.

If you want to get to know Laura Bush better, be sure to read this book. You can find Spoken from the Heart on

Annie Webb Blanton: The Foremost Woman Educator in Texas

books[1][1]I picked up this volume of biographical sketches, Women in Texas by Anne Fears Crawford and Crystal Sasse Ragsdale, when I was vacationing in Texas last summer. When I bought the book, I was primarily intrigued by the chapter about Annie Webb Blanton, which the authors described as the foremost women educator in Texas. This amazing teacher, president of the Texas State Teachers’ Association, was encouraged and financed by the State Suffrage Association in her 1918 bid to become the first woman elected to the state superintendent’s office. Texans gathered in droves across the Lone Star State to hear this remarkable teacher speak and to witness the novelty of a woman campaigning in Texas’s male-dominated political arena. The campaign was a dirty one, with opponents charging that Blanton was divorced (yikes!) and that she was an atheist. You don’t have to go to Texas to find this book, which reveals the engrossing results of that 1918 election. You can purchase Women in Texas on amazon.

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

lolita_deluxe[1][1]Whenever I read the gripping accounts of oppressed women in other countries such as the one presented by Azar Nafisi in Reading Lolita in Tehran, I become acutely aware of how lucky I am to have been born into liberty here in the United States. It never ceases to amaze me that the simple pass-time of reading a book and talking about it with others is considered a subversive activity in some countries. So many women worldwide still struggle to attain the freedoms that many of the young girls in our classrooms take for granted.
In Reading Lolita in Tehran, Iranian author and professor Azar Nafisi describes her experiences as an educator at the University of Tehran during the fundamentalist revolution of 1978. When she refused to submit to an order by the male-dominated administration to wear a veil, which she considered a symbol of oppression, she was expelled from the faculty. Nafisi continued to instruct, however, by leading an underground book club attended by like-minded Iranian women. The group met in Nafisi’s home every Thursday morning to study such forbidden Western classics as Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.
Nafisi’s memoir is a transfixing example of resilience in the face of adversity. You can easily find Reading Lolita in Tehran on amazon.

Christa McAuliffe: First Teacher in Space

9780803214590[1]Without a doubt, one of the saddest days of my teaching career was the day our nation lost the first educator to go into space, New Hampshire history teacher Christa McAuliffe. Fairly new to the profession, I was so proud that a fellow teacher had been selected as the first civilian in space, and a little star-struck by the professionalism, intelligence, and infectious enthusiasm of the chosen candidate, selected from among 11,000 applicants.
While on her mission, Christa planned to write a journal of her experiences as an astronaut from the perspective that even an ordinary citizen can take center stage in the making of history. Additionally, she was scheduled to perform lessons and experiments aboard the space shuttle which would be viewed by students in classrooms all over America.
Tragically, Christa was one of seven astronauts killed when the space shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986, just 73 seconds after lift-off. The journal she never got to finish was replaced by A Journal for Christa: Christa McAuliffe, Teacher in Space, written by Grace George Corrigan, Christa’s grief-stricken mother. The book is a tender tribute to an extraordinary teacher. A Journal for Christa can be ordered form amazon. I have also included a chapter about Christa McAuliffe in the book I am currently writing, tentatively entitled Chalkboard Heroes.


Forbidden Schoolhouse: The True Story of Abolitionist Teacher Prudence Crandall

0618473025[1][1]In 1831 well-known and highly-respected schoolteacher Prudence Crandall opened a boarding school for young ladies in Canterbury, Connecticut. By the end of the first year, she had earned the praise of parents, community members, and students throughout New England. Then one day an African American student named Sarah Harris asked to be admitted to the academy. Sarah said she wanted to learn how to be a teacher so she could open her own school for black students. Prudence knew admitting an African American student would generate some resistance from her neighbors, but after some soul-searching she decided her conscience would not allow her to refuse the request. Prudence had severely under-estimated the resistance. Figuring the complaint was that she was operating an integrated school, the teacher closed her academy for white girls and re-opened as an academy for “misses of color.” That just made the situation worse, causing ripples all the up to the U.S. Supreme Court and resulting in Prudence’s brief incarceration in the local jail. Read the gripping account of this valiant teacher in the book, The Forbidden Schoolhouse: The True and Dramatic Story of Prudence Crandall and Her Students by Suzanne Jurmain, available on amazon. I have also included a chapter about this heroic teacher in the book I am currently writing, tentatively entitled Chalkboard Heroes.