December 21, 2016 Groundwood Books

Teachers Make a Difference! Guest post by Marie-Louise Gay

Leena, grade 3/4, Calgary

This post was originally shared on Marie-Louise Gay’s website, and she’s allowed us to repost it here.


Every month or so, I receive a batch of letters and drawings from a class that has been motivated, inspired and engaged by a teacher who makes a difference in their student’s lives.

Teachers who are enthusiastic and creative.

Teachers who don’t just read a book to a class but who expand and enrich the reading experience by encouraging children to get involved in the story, to change it, to pursue it, to compare it to their own experiences.

Teachers who understand the value of “reading” the art in a book, of understanding how the images were created, what materials were used.

Teachers who know that if they can get their students engaged in a book, captivated by a story, immersed in the illustrations, they are not only teaching them to read but they are teaching them to be curious, open-minded, observant and above all, to love reading!

Ella, Grade K1, Michigan:”…could you write a book about tree climbing? I love to climb trees…”

Two years in a row, K1 teacher Teresa Kellerman from Michigan, has sent me stories and drawings and suggestions from her students inspired by her incredibly imaginative projects based on Any Questions? She wrote:

Dear Ms. Gay,

I wanted to let you know how much you inspired my students as authors with your book Any Questions?. A fellow first grade teacher discovered the book at the local library and knew that I would love it, so she brought it to me. I immediately fell in love as my mind began swimming with lessons and ideas while my heart raced with the excitement that paralleled a child with a new toy! I couldn’t wait to begin sharing the book with my students.Each and every child was captivated by your book as we studied it in sections throughout the week, reading only a portion a day and following up with associated activities from painting the shy giant to guest authoring the”suddenly” section, to editing and sharing. Our final activity for the week was for each student to compose a letter to you offering his/her idea for your next book. The room was buzzed with the murmer of letter writers discussing their ideas with each other. We hope you feel the love that each pencil stroke brings from our classroom to you.

Thank you for inspiring young minds,

Teresa Kellerman and 1K

Mohamed,Grade3/4, Calgary: “…please write a story about Stella in Africa…”

Mrs. Killam, Grade three/four teacher from Calgary, sent me drawings and stories and many, many suggestions from her students. I could probably write a whole shelf full of books from her students suggestions. But I hope they will eventually write these stories. Mrs. Killam wrote:

Ms. Gay,

I hope our letters find you well. We have been exploring your books as an author study for the past 2 months. Your books have been accessible and have ignited the imaginations of 24 grade 3 and 4 students.

Our school is located in the inner city of Calgary. Nearly all students are new Canadians and are learning English for the first time. 16 Countries and 14 languages are represented in my class this year. Many students have come to Canada as refugees, and have experienced unbelievable tragedy and hardships beyond my imagination. Along with these challenges, many students have difficult home lives. With that being said, your books help to bring students together and help us to forget our differences. The students are always enamored by your stories. Thank you for making them.

You have moved this class and changed their expectations of a “good book.” They loved the imagery of “Moonbeam on a Cat’s Ear.” Their collective hearts fell when Mademoiselle Moon lost her job. They giggled and hooted along endlessly with Stella and Sam. They pondered about where the desert island could be that this boy and wolf were floating along on. And, of course, they ALL wanted to dig a hole bigger than Roslyn and make their way to the penguins. Next, we will be looking at “Any Questions?” and writing our own stories.

Thanks again for doing what you do. Please enjoy our letters! They are filled with questions, book suggestions for your next book, sketches, and lots of love.

Until next year,

-Mrs. Killam

Tania,Grade3/4. Calgary: “…I love your book about Caramba and Henry…”

When I read letters like these and receive enthusiastic letters and drawings from children, I feel hopeful as a creator as well as in the future of our children. I feel very thankful and heartened to know that there are many teachers out there really making a real difference in children’s lives.

Thank you to all the teachers who, day in and day out, inspire our children.

Braydon, Grade K1, Michigan

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