Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and if you would like to participate with two of your posts from 2019, you will find all the details in this post: New series of Posts from Your Archives 2020
This is the first post from retired teacher and author Pete Springer and he shares the wonderful literacy programme set up in Humboldt County involving visiting authors interacting and motivating the county’s school children to read and write.
What a wild couple of weeks! I hardly know where to begin. Eighteen months ago, I decided to join the Humboldt County Children’s Author Festival Committee. Author Fest. My limited knowledge of this group was based on my past experiences when I was teaching. Every two years, I got to enjoy a beautiful day with my class when a children’s writer would visit our school. Before the author’s visit, the teachers would read many of the author’s books so that the kids could become more familiar with his/her books.
The magical day would arrive, and I so enjoyed watching my students’ faces as they became fully engaged. The authors would share some of their books, how they became an author/illustrator, and convince many children that they too could follow their dreams and become whatever they wanted to be. As I watched my students’ receptive faces, I saw future writers and illustrators born that day.
There were two main reasons I joined this committee: (1) I want to support anything that promotes literacy and education. (2) While I was teaching (I taught thirty-one years in grades 2-6), I dreamed of becoming a children’s author.
One of the best things about retirement is it has given me the freedom to try new things. I took a writing class, found a writer’s critique group, and wrote a book about my life as a teacher They Call Me Mom to inspire the next generation of teachers.
Now, I’m following my dream of becoming a children’s writer, and I’m working on my first middle-grade chapter book. While I’m hoping to publish my book eventually, I’m enjoying the whole learning process.
The week before the festival, we encountered a significant problem. In the past two years, California has experienced wildfires around this time of year. After another summer of mostly dry conditions, our power company decided to shut off power in advance of the expected windy weather. Our immediate area has not been part of the wildfires, but we are part of the same electrical grid. I would not even begin to compare our minor inconvenience to the loss of life and property that others have experienced, but it was a potentially significant problem for us.
Paying for the expense of getting the authors here and then putting them up in a fancy five-star hotel requires a lot of money, time, and effort. While the authors were visiting, we planned to escort them to over sixty schools in the county where they could share about their lives as writers/illustrators. We knew that many schools would cancel attendance for the day if they had no power. We were at the mercy of nature. The reality of the situation became even more evident when we held our last committee meeting during the first power outage in the dark.
Fortunately, the power shutdown didn’t last several days, and the author festival went on as scheduled. What a relief!
I served as the Travel Chairman for the committee. My primary role was to ensure that all of the twenty-five authors arrived and left safely. Since most authors were flying, I had to have drivers waiting at the airport to take them to the hotel. Since the authors were coming from all over the country, this was a challenge. To make things more complicated, not one of the incoming flights arrived at its scheduled time. Many planes arrived late, but one landed thirty minutes early. That was supposed to be the third flight in, but it came first. Because I didn’t want the drivers to have to wait at the airport all day, I continually sent them texts as I tracked the flights’ progress. After a long day, we thankfully got everyone to the hotel.
The next two days were spent driving the children’s authors to schools all over the county. I got the pleasure of escorting one author each day. The first day I went along with the author, Bob Barner. He writes books for primary grade children, and I already owned some of his books from my days as a teacher. I was supposed to drive him to two schools that were about an hour away. Just after I had left the hotel with Bob, I got a call from another committee member who reported that power was out in some of the schools in the southern part of the county, including the two schools I was supposed to take him to. This power outage was unplanned and not part of a planned shutdown. The schools decided to close for the day, and suddenly we had to come up with a plan B. In the end, one of the schools found a way to invite their students back to school. We drove south for an hour and arrived at lunchtime. Thank goodness some students came back to school. Bob handled the whole situation like a pro and wasn’t the least bit thrown off. He played the ukulele during his presentation, and it wasn’t long before he had students singing along with him.
Children’s author/illustrator, Bob Barner reading his book, Dem Bones, to the students.
Children’s author, Bob Barner, illustrating a picture for the students.
The following day, I got to go back to my former elementary school to escort the author. Natasha Wing. Part of the joy of her visit was that Natasha formerly worked at Pine Hill as an instructional aide some twenty-four years before. Natasha is best known for her “Night Before” series. She has thirty books in this series—primarily for early readers. She made four presentations and adjusted each one slightly depending on the age level. It was a privilege to watch her interact skillfully with kids from kindergarten-third grade.
Children’s author, Natasha Wing, answering questions from kindergarten students.
Children’s author, Natasha Wing, answering questions from kindergarten students.
On Friday night, we held a banquet for the authors at the historic Carson Mansion. After a delicious dinner, the twenty-five authors each spoke for three minutes.
Saturday was an opportunity for the community to come and meet the authors. They held a book sale at the Humboldt County Library. Many people purchased the authors’ books, got an autograph, and had their picture taken with a favorite author.
Ten of the authors were flying out at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, so we took them out to a hotel next to the airport on Saturday night so they could catch an early shuttle. Others flew out later on Sunday, and I had to make sure they had a ride to the airport. Seven of the authors drove, and we picked up their expenses for that.
It’s been a week since the authors were here, and now we’re in the middle of another power shutdown. What turned out to be a very successful four days was surrounded on each end by the loss of power. We got lucky because the weather gods nearly sabotaged the whole thing.
Besides feeling grateful and relieved, I have a lot of pride. Our community and the dedicated people I worked with made this event a success. I am so happy for the children of Humboldt County.
©Pete Springer 2019
About Pete Springer
My name is Pete Springer. I taught elementary school for thirty-one years (grades 2-6) at Pine Hill School in Eureka, CA. Even though I retired over two years ago, my passion will always lie with supporting education, kids, and teachers.
When I came out of the teaching program many years ago, I realized how unprepared I was for what was in store for me in the classroom. My college education focused mostly on learning theory rather than the practical day-to-day challenges that all teachers face. Thankfully, I had some great mentors to lean on to help support me in the early part of my career.
I have made it my mission to pay it forward to the next generation of teachers. I was a master teacher to four student teachers, and I have several former students who are now teachers, including one who teaches at my former elementary school. That is pretty cool!
About the book
Who Will You Inspire Today? Teachers face this challenge and responsibility each day, but in the process, the author discovers that his students can also have a profound influence on him. Pete Springer takes you on his memorable thirty-one-year journey in education as an elementary school teacher and offers the many valuable life and teaching lessons he learned along the way. Get ready to laugh out loud at some of the humorous and memorable experiences that all teachers face, feel inspired by the inherent goodness of children, and appreciate the importance of developing a sense of teamwork among the staff.
Learn valuable tips for working with children, parents, fellow staff members, and administrators. This book is ideal for young teachers, but also a reminder to all educators of the importance and responsibility of being a role model. This book is a must-read for all new teachers and those teachers that need a reminder they are human! Mr. Springer educates others in his easy-to-read, story-like, first-hand manuscript. You will laugh, cry, and get motivated to be the best educator you can. After reading this, I have a better outlook on relationships with my colleagues and am reminded to savor every moment. -Tami Beall (Principal, Pine Hill School)
One of the recent reviews for the book
“They Call Me Mom,” by Pete Springer is a real gem! Don’t be fooled by its easy readability; this book is jam-packed with powerful advice. What makes “They call Me Mom” so special? First, Pete Springer’s passion for teaching lights up the entire book. His core values are clearly articulated. But the real treasures in this book are revealed through thoughtful, funny, and honest anecdotes from his 30 year career.
Springer’s book is divided into the main issues faced by both new or experienced teachers: how to organize your class, work effectively with students and their families, and work collaboratively with colleagues. The chapters on frustrations and humorous events are yummy icing on the cake.
Pete Springer is not just a great teacher, he’s a natural writer. “They Call Me Mom” would make a perfect Christmas present for your teacher friends (or your kiddo’s teachers)! His blog is also a great read, with news about his successful efforts to publish, volunteer, and support educators. He tells some powerfully encouraging stories of the many reasons to be grateful in the midst of difficult circumstances.
Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US
and: Amazon UK
Connect to Pete
My thanks to Pete for sharing this inspiring post about bringing books and reading to school children.. and please head over to his blog to browse the rest of his archives.. thanks Sally.