Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Subversive Activity?

lolita_deluxe[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.

How School Libraries Contribute to the Instructional Program

TeacherAppleTN1[1]Most chalkboard champions agree that library programs are extremely valuable to students. But did you know that, according to recent studies, strong school libraries help to increase standardized test scores? Statistics show that public schools with strong school library programs outperform those without such programs on high-stakes standardized tests. This is true regardless of the school community’s parent education, poverty levels, ethnicity, or the percentage of English language learners in the school population. Increases in library program elements correspond to standardized test scores at all grade levels: elementary, middle school, and high school.

Library elements that contribute to increased test scores include the total number of hours the library is open, the total amount of technology available from the library, the total services provided by trained library staff, the presence of a program of curriculum-integrated information with literacy instruction, the informal instruction of students in the use of resources, providing teachers with information about new resources, and providing reference assistance to both teachers and students.

A strong school library program in described as one that provides a full-time teacher/librarian, a full-time paraprofessional, a robust and up-to-date collection of digital, print, and media resources with a budget to support it, and abundant access to the library’s facilities, technology, and resources. How well does your school’s library program meet the criteria?

An Inspirational Book for the Season!

Colorful Chalk at Chalkboard

Season’s Greetings! I’m sure busy educators all over the country are busy wrapping up their current instructional programs, creating holiday lessons and programs, working on finals, and calculating semester grades. So much to do before the onset of Winter Break! At the same time, these dedicated professionals are decorating their classrooms, homes, and yards for the season, while also addressing holiday cards, baking cookies, and shopping for gifts. So much to do to get ready for Christmas, too!

Speaking of Christmas shopping, I have a suggestion! Why not buy an inspirational book for the teacher in your family, your child’s special teacher, or the co-worker at your school? Or you could indulge yourself, and stock upon something inspirational to read during your much-needed Winter Break. I have two splendid titles to suggest:  Chalkboard Champions: Twelve Remarkable Teacher who Educated America’s Disenfranchised Students (available here) and Chalkboard Heroes: Twelve Courageous Teachers and Their Deeds of Valor (available here), each one available in print or in e-book formats and reasonably priced. Enjoy!

Physical Education Teacher, Coach, and Former Pro Basketball Player Andrew DeClercq

0c84ac3There are many stellar examples of talented athletes who have also distinguished themselves as educators. One such athlete is Andrew DeClercq, a physical education teacher and boys basketball coach who has also had a notable career as a professional basketball player.

Andrew was born on February 1, 1973, in Detroit, Michigan. As a youngster, he attended Countryside High School in Clearwater, Florida. After his high school graduation in 1991, Andrew attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, on a scholarship, earning his bachelor’s degree in history in 1995. While there, the 6’10”, 255 pound athlete played center on his college basketball team.

Following his college graduation, Andrew was drafted by the National Basketball Association. During his ten-year pro basketball career, he played for a number of teams, including the Golden State Warriors (1995-1997), the Boston Celtics, (1997-1999), the Cleveland Cavaliers (1999-2000), and the Orlando Magic (2000-2005). He played the positions of center and power forward.

Once he retired from pro basketball, Andrew accepted a position as a physical education teacher for the Montverde Academy, a private college-prep school located in Montverde, Florida. He also served the school as an assistant basketball coach for the school’s nationally ranked team. He was employed there from 2009 to 2010. He then accepted a position as the Head Varsity and Head Junior Varsity Basketball Coach for the Foundation Academy, simultaneously coaching their middle school junior varsity and varsity teams. The Foundation Academy is a private school located in Jacksonville, Florida.

Andrew currently lives in Clermont, Florida, where he owns and operates youth basketball day camps, training centers, and clinics in the Central Florida area. You can view Andrew at work as a teacher and coach in this YouTube video:


Hawaii’s chalkboard champion Takashi Ohno: Teacher and legislator


Often talented educators go on to serve their communities in the political arena. This is the case with Takashi Ohno, a third grade teacher from Kalihi, Hawaii, who is currently serving in the Hawaii House of Representatives.

Takashi was born on Kodiak Island, Alaska. His father was originally from Japan, and was employed in Alaska’s fishing industry. After graduation from high school, Takashi attended  Linfield College, a small liberal arts institution located in McMinnville, Oregon, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in education. He earned his master’s degree from Chaminade University, a private university in Honolulu, Hawaii.

After completing his education Takashi accepted a position as a third grade teacher at Mayor Joseph J. Fern Elementary in Kalihi, Hawaii. As an educator connected with Teach for America, Takashi is a firm believer in education. “Education is life’s equalizer,” he once said, “and we need to compensate and retain master teachers that excel in their profession.”

In 2012, Takashi was elected to the Hawaii State House of Representatives representing District 27. He is currently serving his second term there. He is a part of several legislative committees, including Agriculture; Economic Development and Business; Tourism; Veterans, Military, and International Affairs; and Culture and the Arts; Education; and Higher Education. “I work so that all children one day will receive an excellent education,” Takashi once expounded.

Takashi Ohono: a true chalkboard champion.