Gift Chalkboard Champions and Chalkboard Heroes this season!

When contemplating just the right holiday present to buy for your friends and family, consider gifting copies of Chalkboard Champions and Chalkboard Heroes. Each volume is packed with inspirational stories about remarkable educators in American history, and the historical implications of their pioneering work. These books make great gifts for individuals in the teaching profession and those aspiring to become teachers some day. They are also appealing to history buffs and social scientists.

Among the captivating stories in Chalkboard Champions is the story of Charlotte Forten Grimke, an African American born into freedom who volunteered to teach emancipated slaves as the Civil War raged around her. Read the eyewitness account of the Wounded Knee massacre through the eyes of teacher Elaine Goodale Eastman, and educator Mary Tsukamoto, imprisoned in a WWII Japanese internment camp. Read about Mississippi Freedom Summer teacher Sandra Adickes who, together with her students, defied Jim Crow laws to integrate the Hattiesburg Public Library. Marvel at the pioneering work of Anne Sullivan Macy, the teacher of Helen Keller, the efforts of teacher Clara Comstock to find homes for thousands of Orphan Train riders, and the dedication of Jaime Escalante, the East LA educator who proved to that inner city Latino youths could successfully meet the demands of a rigorous curriculum.

In Chalkboard Heroes, read about dedicated educators who were heroes both inside and outside of the classroom, including WWI veteran Henry Alvin Cameron and Civil War veteran Francis Wayland Parker. Learn about teachers who were social reformers such as Dolores Huerta, Civil Rights activist Robert Parris Moses, suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt, and Native American rights advocate Zitkala-Sa, all of whom put themselves at risk to fight for improved conditions for disenfranchised citizens. Discover brave pioneers who took great risks to blaze a trail for others to follow such as Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space; Willa Brown Chappell, the aviatrix who taught Tuskegee airmen to fly; Etta Schureman Jones, the Alaskan teacher who was interned in a POW camp in Japan during WWII; and Olive Mann Isbell, who established the first English school in California while the Mexican american War raged around her.

All these remarkable stories and more can be shared with someone you know this season.

Strategies Annie Sullivan Used to Teach Helen Keller

imagesAlmost everyone has heard of Anne Sullivan Macy, the remarkable teacher who worked with Helen Keller, an extremely intelligent blind and deaf child from Tuscumbia, Alabama. The relationship between the teacher and the student is explored in the play The Miracle Worker by William Gibson, an iconic piece of American literature that is frequently taught in public schools. This award-winning play depicts the exact moment at which, due to Anne’s expert instructional efforts, Helen was able to grasp the concept of language. This knowledge unlocked a world of isolation for the little girl, allowing her to connect with her fellow human beings, and making it possible for her to earn a university degree at a time when educating women was rare. The scene is sweet. But what strategies, exactly, did the miracle-working teacher use in order to achieve this breakthrough? After extensive reading on the subject, I think I may be able to identify a few of them.

First of all, Anne read every bit of published material available in her day about the education of handicapped students. Knowledge of pedagogy is the first step to effective practice. In addition to this, Anne had the “advantage” of personal experience, as she herself had wrestled with severe vision impairment as a result of trachoma. I’m sure at one time or another, we’ve all met an educator who is particularly effective at working with students who are facing the same challenges the teacher himself faced as a youngster.

Second, Anne was a keen observer, and she made it a point to watch the normal processes of language acquisition. She then replicated those processes as best she could to fit the particular circumstances and needs of her student. Today, we would probably call this strategy recognizing brain-based learning, and coordinating teaching strategies to fit the way the brain naturally learns.

Also, experts generally agree that much of Anne’s success in teaching Helen language was attributed to the fact that the teacher always communicated to her student with complete sentences. Concrete nouns such as water or spoon, verbs such was pump or run, or adjectives such as hot or smooth,  may be easy to convey. But abstract ideas such as beauty or truth, or certain parts of speech such as pronouns and some prepositions are much more difficult to impart to an individual unable to see or hear.

Fourth, Anne was especially adept at incorporating experiential learning into her lesson plans. The effectiveness of “learning by doing” has been well documented, but in a day and age when most instruction consisted of rote memorization without necessarily comprehending, Anne’s insistence on teaching through constructed experience was truly innovative. Wading through the creek water, climbing the tree, holding the chick as it hatched from the egg—experiences like these were the staples of Anne’s instructional program.

To learn more about Anne Sullivan Macy, I have included an abbreviated but concise biography of this amazing teacher in my book, Chalkboard Champions: Twelve Teachers who Educated America’s Disenfranchised Students, which can also be found at amazon.com at the following link: Chalkboard Champions.

Anne Sullivan Macy: The Strategies She Used to Achieve Helen Keller’s Miracle

$RDT5O7NAlmost everyone has heard of Anne Sullivan Macy, the remarkable teacher who worked with Helen Keller, an extremely intelligent blind and deaf child from Tuscumbia, Alabama. The relationship between the teacher and the student is explored in The Miracle Worker by William Gibson, an iconic piece of American literature that is frequently taught in public schools. This award-winning play depicts the exact moment at which, due to Anne’s expert instructional efforts, Helen was able to grasp the concept of language. This knowledge unlocked a world of isolation for the little girl, allowing her to connect with her fellow human beings, and making it possible for her to earn a university degree at a time when educating women was rare. The scene is sweet. But what strategies, exactly, did the miracle-working teacher use in order to achieve this breakthrough? After extensive reading on the subject, I think I may be able to identify a few of them.

First of all, Anne read every bit of published material available in her day about the education of handicapped students. Knowledge of pedagogy is the first step to effective practice. In addition to this, Anne had the “advantage” of personal experience, as she herself had wrestled with severe vision impairment as a result of trachoma. I’m sure at one time or another, we’ve all met an educator who is particularly effective at working with students who are facing the same challenges the teacher himself faced as a youngster.

Second, Anne was a keen observer, and she made it a point to watch the normal processes of language acquisition. She then replicated those processes as best she could to fit the particular circumstances and needs of her student. Today, we would probably call this strategy recognizing brain-based learning, and coordinating teaching strategies to fit the way the brain naturally learns. Also, experts generally agree that much of Anne’s success in teaching Helen language was attributed to the fact that the teacher always communicated to her student with complete sentences. Concrete nouns such as water or spoon, verbs such was pump or run, or adjectives such as hot or smooth,  may be easy to convey. But abstract ideas such as beauty or truth, or certain parts of speech such as pronouns and some prepositions are much more difficult to impart to an individual unable to see or hear.

Third, Anne was especially adept at incorporating experiential learning into her lesson plans. The effectiveness of “learning by doing” has been well documented, but in a day and age when most instruction consisted of rote memorization without necessarily comprehending, Anne’s insistence on teaching through constructed experience was truly innovative. Wading through the creek water, climbing the tree, holding the chick as it hatched from the egg—experiences like these were the staples of Anne’s instructional program.

I have included an abbreviated but concise biography of this amazing teacher in my book, Chalkboard Champions, which can also be found at amazon.com at the following link: Chalkboard Champions.