In the Educator Spotlight today – Literacy Coach Deana Metzke!
Please tell us about yourself!
Hi! My name is Deana Metzke and I currently live in the capital of Illinois, Springfield, where I have spent the entirety of my career in education. I have taught 1st and 4th grades, but for the last decade or so I have been either a Reading Teacher or Literacy Coach at the elementary level. At home, I have a husband who is also an educator, along with a 6 year old son and a 9 year old daughter, all who support my reading habit. Me and my latest thoughts about reading/books can be found on Twitter at @DMetzke or on my blog raisingreaderssite.wordpress.com. On my blog I toggle between kidlit book reviews and detailing my experiences trying to raise my two children to be avid readers.
What are some of your favorite middle grade books or authors?
Most recently I have been obsessed with all things Kwame Alexander and Jason Reynolds. They are really writing the books that I wish had been around when I was a child, so I am always trying to put them in students’ hands. I also enjoy history, so I love books by Christopher Paul Curtis and Kimberly Brubaker Bradley because they do such a great job of transporting me back to different times in history, and entertaining me at the same time.
Tell us about your classroom library! How do you get books?
Interestingly, I think the book that impacted me the most as a teacher was A Series of Unfortunate Events. I had a difficult class one year teaching 4th grade, and reading to them after lunch was a perfect way to calm them down after being outside. I thought the book was funny, but I didn’t feel like they were finding the story as amusing as I was. However, as soon as I stopped reading or closed the book–the number of “awwwws” I heard was shocking. I really thought that I was just reading for my own benefit, but who knew that they were actually as into as I was. I remember one student in particular, I thought he was sleep, but every time I stopped reading, his head would pop right up and he would ask me to read more. I think we got through the first two books in the series that year. Reading that series really showed me that the benefits of reading aloud not only a chapter book, but also a series, and that just because they don’t react like me, doesn’t mean that they aren’t enjoying it.
What are some of your favorite reading-related projects or activities to do with your students?
We do Book Battles in our building and it is one of my favorite things to do. I had seen online many different ideas of March Madness with books or Mock Caldecotts, but I could not figure out how to make that work efficiently, school-wide. So instead, I select books that are popular for any variety of reasons, including popular authors, award winning or even just possibly award winning, and pair them up. I then give teachers copies of the books to read to their students, and they have the students decide which one out of the two they like the best. Sometimes I give them criteria, i.e., a focus on illustrations, and other times I allow them to let students pick however they choose. I have the competing books on display, either on the bulletin board outside of my room or on my door, so then everyone can see which classes have selected which book. I am very lucky to work with a wonderful group of educators, some of whom get almost as excited as I do when I bring them new books to read, and that makes the Book Battles that much more enjoyable. It is also a way to expose the teachers to new read-alouds that they can continue to use in their classrooms whenever they see fit.
What professional development book influenced you most as a teacher?
When I read Steven Laynes’ Igniting a Passion for Reading a decade ago, it for sure reignited my passion for reading. I had never heard of the word “aliterate” before reading this book, and after I did, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I also loved the fact that he listed so many titles and suggestions for their use in the book. At that time, my knowledge of current popular books for kids was basically restricted to the Scholastic Book Club flyers, so these lists opened up my eyes and got my wheels spinning. Since then it has become my mission to prevent as many aliterate readers as I possibly can.
If you could go back in time to your first year teaching and give yourself some advice, what would you say?
Oh my. I for sure would tell myself to do more read alouds! I was teaching 1st grade my first year, and I had not fully developed my passion for kid lit at that time. Most of the read alouds I did do were suggested/planned through the district curriculum, with the occasional holiday-related book. My first year wasn’t horrible, but I definitely think more read alouds would have done wonders for both my morale, as well as the students’ that first year.
What’s a strategy or tool that you are excited to try out next?
I really want to try more “Book Tastings”, where students get to do real previews of books before selecting what they want to read next. Since I’m not in the classroom, I don’t get to recommend books to as many students as I would like to. Before our Winter Break, I had an opportunity to do a quick mini-book tasting with a 5th grade classroom, and I really enjoyed it (and I think the kids did too). However, I would like to go all out with the ambiance and create some really good conversations among students about books, so that something I would like to try in the near future.
What advice would you give new teachers?
This is not a solo job. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from other teachers/coaches in your building, or find teachers you admire on Twitter or other social media avenues, and don’t be afraid to ask them questions. You don’t have to do this by yourself.
You can connect with Deana on Twitter at @DMetzke or on her website raisingreaderssite.wordpress.com.
Want more inspiration? Check out the other #MGEducators interviews and guests posts!