Alan Lawrence Sitomer: Novelist and Chalkboard Champion

alan-sitomer[1]A very unique chalkboard champion is Alan Lawrence Sitomer, novelist and educator who has earned a reputation nationally for his success in engaging reluctant readers and as a motivational speaker. He was named California Teacher of the Year by the California Board of Education in 2007.

Born in 1967, Alan earned his bachelor’s degree from USC, his teaching certificate through San Diego State University, and his master’s degree from National University. He has taught English, Creative Writing, Speech & Debate, and AVID at Lynwood High School, an inner city school located in Lynwood, Los Angeles County, California.

Alan’s published novels include The Hoopster, Hip Hop High School, and Homeboyz. He has also authored Hip-Hop Poetry & the Classics, a text that is currently being used in classrooms throughout the United States to teach classic poetry through hip-hop. The approach is intended to engaged reluctant students in both poetry and academics. Other titles published by Alan are a teacher’s methodology book entitled Teaching Teens & Reaping Results: In a Wi-Fi, Hip-Hop, Where-Has-All-The-Sanityh-Gone World and The Alan Sitomer BookJam.

You can find Alan Sitomer’s books on amazon and access his website at the following link:

Margaret Antoinette Clapp: High School English Teacher and Pulitzer Prize Winner

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAIjAAAAJDNmMzlmMWFhLTAwNTQtNDQ3Ni1iMjY5LTAzMmU3MzEwMWIwZgOften talented educators garner accolades of international proportions. Once such educator was Margaret Antoinette Clapp, a high school English teacher and historian from New York City who also happened to be the winner of a Pulitzer prize for biography. Margaret Clapp was born on April 10, 1910, in East Orange, New Jersey. She was the youngest of four children, and the second daughter of Alfred Chapin and Anna (Roth) Clapp. As a teenager, she enrolled at East Orange High School, where she graduated in 1926. At the time of her high school graduation, she earned a scholarship to Wellesley College, where she earned her undergraduate degree in history and economics in 1930. While in college, Margaret was honored as a Wellesley College Scholar for her academic achievements. Margaret accepted her first teaching position at the prestigious Todhunter School for Girls in Manhattan, New York, where she taught English literature for twelve years. During these years, she enrolled in Columbia University, completing the requirements for her masters degree in 1937. During and after World War II, Margaret taught history at several New York City universities, including City College of New York, Douglass College, Columbia University, and Brooklyn College. Her doctoral dissertation at Columbia drew much praise, and was eventually developed into the biography Forgotten First Citizen: John Bigelow. John Bigelow was a little-known nineteenth-century politician, editor, reformer, and diplomat. Margaret’s dissertation was developed and eventually published in 1947. The manuscript was named the winner of the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. For her achievement, the talented teacher was featured in a cover story for Time Magazine on October 10, 1949. When she was 39 years old, Margaret accepted a position as the eighth president of Wellesley College, and she served in this capacity from 1949 until her retirement in 1966. At the time she accepted the position, she was one of only five women who were serving as university presidents. During her tenure, Wellesley’s financial resources and facilities were expanded to a substantial degree, and Margaret earned a reputation as a tireless advocate for careers for women. For her work at Wellesley, she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy for Arts and Sciences in 1952. The library at Wellesley is named in her honor. After leaving Wellesley, Margaret served briefly as administrator of Lady Doak College, a women’s college in Madurai, South India. She was then named as United States cultural attaché to India, and eventually became an official of public affairs in the United States Information Agency until her final retirement in 1971. After returning from India, this amazing chalkboard champion settled in Tyringham, Massachusetts. In her later years, she was diagnosed with cancer, and she passed away on May 3, 1974.

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.

Creative writing teacher Robert Boone: 2009 Chicagoan of the Year

Robert BooneThere are many examples of talented teachers who win national acclaim for their work. One of these teachers is Robert (Bob) Boone, a creative writing teacher from Chicago, Illinois.

Robert was born and raised in Winnetka, Illinois, although he spent some of his childhood in Germany. He earned his master’s degree from Columbia University and his Ph.D. at Northwestern University in 1975.

Robert’s career as an educator began in 1964. In the early years of his teaching career, Robert taught fifth grade at Staten Island Academy in Staten Island, New York. He later relocated to Highland Park High School in Chicago. About thirty-five years ago he began working at the Glencoe Study Center, which he opened in 1979 to tutor high school dropouts who were seeking their GED. Robert founded outreach programs that emphasized developing the writing skills of inner-city students, particularly those who have not been successful in traditional educational settings.

In 1991, Robert founded a scholarship organization called the Young Chicago Authors, with the mission of encouraging teenagers to write. The program currently serves more than 5,000 teen authors each year. For this work, Robert was named “Chicagoan of the Year” by Chicago Magazine. In 2009, he was honored with an award from the Coming Up Taller Leadership Enhancement Conference at a White House event hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Robert is the author of several books and textbooks, including Hack: The Meteoric Life of One of Baseball’s First Superstars: Hack Wilson (1978), Moe’s Cafe (2007), Forest High (2011), Back to Forest High (2015), and the acclaimed Inside Job: A Life of Teaching (2003).

Robert currently lives in Glencoe, Illinois, and has been married to his wife, Sue, for forty-six years. The marriage has produced three children and five grandchildren.

To check out Robert’s web site, simply click on this link: Writing Teacher Hangout.


Rebecca Pawel: High school English teacher and acclaimed novelist

I love to tell stories about amazing teachers, and one that certainly fills the bill is Rebecca Pawel, a New York City high school teacher who has published four widely-acclaimed mystery novels.

PawelRebecca Pawel  was born in 1977 in New York City and raised in the Upper West Side. She once revealed that her love affair with all things Iberian began in junior high school, when she studied flamenco and classical Spanish dance. While a teenager at Stuyvesant High School, Rebecca spent a summer abroad in Madrid. Once she graduated from high school, she enrolled at Columbia University, where she majored in Spanish Language and Literature. She then attended Teachers College to earn her teaching credentials.

Rebecca began her professional career as a teacher of English, Journalism, and Spanish at the High School for Enterprise, Business, and Technology in Brooklyn. She was employed there from 2000 to 2011. Between 2011 and 2013, she served as a college advisor for High School for Services and Learning at Erasmus Hall in Flatbush. In 2013, Rebecca returned to the Graduate School of Arts and Science at Columbia University, where she is currently working on a PhD in English and Comparative Literature.

Rebecca’s detective novels are set in a time period immediately after the Spanish Civil War. Her first book, Death of a Nationalist (2005), earned an Edgar for Best First Novel by an American Author. She followed this triumph with Law of Return (2004), The Watcher in the Pine (2005), and The Summer Snow (2006), which was named one of Publisher’s Weekly Best Mysteries.

“I’ve always told stories,” Rebecca once confessed. “I dictated stories to my parents before I knew how to write them down. When I was in third grade, my dad taught me to touch-type on a Brother electronic typewriter.” The rest is history.