Below are some of the books I’ve read that I felt were inspirational or beneficial to my practice as an educator. If you know of another that you would like to see added to the list, just send me an email!
Having already earned his degree in history and a teaching credential, popular actor Tony Danza accepted a real-life position as a first-year teacher in a Philadelphia inner-city school. This book details his experiences there. Danza gives an insider’s perspective on funding cuts, high-stakes testing, high absenteeism, student apathy, and lack of parental involvement. He hits the nail on the head with every chapter. For more, read my post Teacher and Actor Tony Danza. You can also buy the book on amazon at I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had.
Beyond the Blackboard by Stacy Bess
Stacey Bess of Salt Lake City, Utah, landed her first teaching job in a classroom in a homeless shelter. Her students wrestled with unstable housing, domestic abuse, poverty, and alcohol and drug-abusing parents. Read how this remarkable teacher created a safe, loving classroom environment and how she battled the local school board for a better classroom space and more resources. Find out more in my blog post Teaching in the School with No Name or buy her book, Beyond the Blackboard, available through amazon.com.
When Hurricane Katrina forced thousands to flee their homes, New Orleans residents were more concerned about survival than school. But when a group of evacuee parents realized they would not be returning home soon, they had to find a way to help their kids go back to school. They pooled their resources and hired their New Orleans teacher, a fellow refugee, to establish a school. This teacher’s story furnishes valuable lessons for dealing with nature’s fury. For more, read my post Hurricane Harvey Reminds Us of Hurricane Katrina. You can also find the book on amazon.com at Sugarcane Academy: How a New Orleans Teacher and His Storm-Struck Students Created a School to Remember.
He was one of the most famous educators of the late 20th century, but Jaime Escalante is already fading from cultural memory. Portrayed in the 1988 movie Stand and Deliver, this talented educator challenged supposedly “unteachable” inner-city Latino students to achieve beyond a level anyone thought them capable of. Read more about him on my post Jaime Escalante. I devoted a chapter to him in my book Chalkboard Champions. Also, his well-researched and well-written biography can be found in Jaime Escalante: The Best Teacher in America. The book is out of print, but used copies can be found on amazon and at many libraries.
Etta Schureman was over 40 years old when she ventured into Alaska Territory to teach in primitive rural schools. There Etta married and settled permanently. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942, the Aleutian island where her school was located was invaded by Japanese troops. Although Etta and her husband were in their sixties, they killed the husband and incarcerated Etta in Japan as a prisoner of war. More about Etta’s intriguing tale of survival can be found on my post Etta Jones, or buy Breu’s book on amazon by clicking Last Letters from Attu.
My post Remembering Christa McAuliffe describes a gifted history teacher from New Hampshire who was selected to be the first teacher in space. As part of her mission, Christa planned to write a journal of her experiences from the perspective that even an ordinary citizen can make history. Tragically, Christa was killed when the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after lift-off on January 28, 1986. The journal she never got to finish was replaced by A Journal for Christa written by her grief-stricken mother. The book is a tribute to an extraordinary teacher. A Journal for Christa can be ordered from amazon.
New York City math teacher Robert Moses was a legendary figure during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Nearly 40 years later, Moses advocates for yet another transformational change: the Algebra Project. His innovative programs have helped to overcome the achievement gap. Read more about this remarkable educator in my post Bob Moses. I have also included a chapter about him in my book Chalkboard Heroes, or you can buy his book, Radical Equations, on amazon.
This autobiography by an inspirational New England teacher describes how she went to South Dakota to establish a day school for Sioux Indians as an alternative to Indian boarding schools. While there, Elaine witnessed the Wounded Knee Massacre. With her fiance, Dr. Charles “Ohiyesa” Eastman, himself a Sioux, the couple nursed the injured survivors back to health. Great story. You can read more about her on my post, Elaine Goodale Eastman, read the chapter about her in my book, Chalkboard Champions, or buy her book on amazon.com at Sister to the Sioux: The Memoirs of Elaine Goodale Eastman.
Just about everyone has heard of the best-selling book The Freedom Writers Diary, written by teacher Erin Gruwell and her class of inner-city at-risk students. This collection of student experiences zeroes in on some of the challenges our kids face when they are not in school, and how much a caring and dedicated teacher can help them overcome those challenges. Read more on my post Erin Gruwell. If you want to buy the book, The Freedom Writers Diary is easy to find on amazon and at just about any brick-and-mortar bookstore.
I absolutely loved this action-packed true story about a young teacher, Anne Hobbs, who travelled to the Alaskan wilderness in the 1920’s to teach in a frontier school. As much an adventure story and a romance as it is a chronicle of early Alaskan history, this tale will keep you on the edge of your seat. Don’t miss it! Read more on my blog post Tisha, or order the book Tisha on amazon.
Most people have heard of Malala Yousafzai, the teenager from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban simply for claiming that education for girls is a human right. This autobiography details her life in Pakistan under the Taliban, her struggles to advance the cause of education for girls, the attack that nearly took her life, and her road to recovery. A must read! Learn more from my post Malala or order the book I Am Malala from amazon.