I am often asked how I selected the teachers I wrote about in my book, Chalkboard Champions. Two of the twelve were easy: Anne Sullivan, the teacher who worked with Helen Keller, and Jaime Escalante, the teacher who was the subject of the movie Stand and Deliver. I don’t think a book about outstanding teachers can be written if these two are excluded. It helped that Anne Sullivan worked with handicapped students and Jaime Escalante worked with inner city Latino youth, since the thrust of my book is teachers who worked with disenfranchised student populations. After I selected these two, I began to think about other groups of disenfranchised students. I thought about minority groups such as Native Americans and African Americans, which led me to Elaine Goodale Eastman, Charlotte Forten Grimke, Carter Godwin Woodson, and Sandra Adickes. I specifically looked for a teacher in Hawaii, and discovered Gladys Kamakakuokalani Brandt. I have to say, the chapter I wrote for Gladys is among my favorite chapters. Then I considered underprivileged students such as the poor, orphans, and newly-arrived immigrants. Researching these groups led me to Julia Richman, Clara Comstock, and Leonard Covello. I specifically looked for a teacher who was working with students in World War II Japanese internment camps, and after much effort found Mary Tsukamoto. I stumbled across Eulalia Bourne, and couldn’t resist her.
When selecting the teachers I wrote about, I tried to include a good cross section of ethnic groups, both as teachers and as student groups. I strove to include both men and women, although it is easier to find women teachers to write about, and I also attempted to include representation from a variety of geographic regions within the United States. I also tried to select teachers that came from different time periods in our history, starting from the Civil War era and continuing through to more contemporary times.
I love to tell stories about remarkable teachers, and although I selected twelve very extraordinary teachers to write about, there were, of course, many more that I did not have room to include in the volume. I hope to write about these others in future publications! You can read the fascinating stories of the remarkable teachers mentioned above in the book Chalkboard Champions, available on amazon.