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Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach

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Using Poetry for Reflection and Conversation

Publisher: Jossey-Bass
Hardcover, 288 pp., $19.95
ISBN: 978-1118459430
See Table of Contents

Other Courage & Renewal Poetry Books


Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach (2003) is our best-selling book that, in 2012, was #2 on Edudemic’s list of 50 Most Popular Books for Teachers.


Leading from Within: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Lead


Each and every day teachers show up in their classrooms with a relentless sense of optimism. Despite the complicated challenges of schools, they come to and remain in the profession inspired by a conviction that through education they can move individuals and society to a more promising future.

In Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach a diverse group of ninety teachers describe the complex of emotions and experiences of the teaching life – joy, outrage, heartbreak, hope, commitment and dedication. Each heartfelt commentary is paired with a cherished poem selected by the teacher. The contributors represent a broad array of educators: K-12 teachers, principals, superintendents, college professors, as well as many non-traditional teachers. They range from first year teachers to mid-career veterans to those who have retired after decades in the classroom. They come from inner-city, suburban, charter and private schools.

The teachers identified an eclectic collection of poems and poets from Emily Dickinson, to Richard Wright, to Mary Oliver to the rapper Tupac Shakur. It is a book by teachers and for all who teach.

The book also includes a poignant Foreword by Parker J. Palmer (The Courage to Teach), a stirring Introduction by Taylor Mali (What Teachers Make), and a moving Afterword by Sarah Brown Wessling (Teaching Channel). See the Table of Contents below.

Where Teaching with Fire honored and celebrated the work of teachers; Teaching with Heart salutes the tenacious and relentless optimism of teachers and their belief that despite the many challenges and obstacles of the teaching life, much is possible.

Read this blog post, 100 Reasons to Love Teaching WIth Heart


Teaching with Heart, Fire and Poetry Online Community

Teaching with Heart, Fire and Poetry is an online community and resource hub where teachers share with other teachers about their life and work. The website was inspired by the Teaching with Heart and Teaching with Fire books.

We created this website because we want to share what we’ve learned. But more than that, we want to create a space where you and your fellow teachers can share what keeps your heart engaged in teaching, can inspire and support each other, and can share how you’re bringing poetry alive in the classroom – and alive in your own heart.

We hope you’ll feel moved to send in submissions to post on the Online Community Blog, including: personal commentaries on poems; stories about how you’ve used poetry in your classroom, in meetings, with your colleagues, and in your life; and reflections on the teacher’s life and work.

In addition to your submissions, we will post stories and poems from Teaching with Heart, Leading from Within, and Teaching with Fire and new poems.  Be sure to check out The Poet’s Corner for the ongoing collection of these poems!


Endorsements for Teaching With Heart

I wish I could afford to buy copies of Teaching With Heart for all the teachers I have interviewed in my 40 years of reporting. My budget can’t handle that. Instead, I recommend that all of us non-teachers buy copies of this inspiring book for teachers we know. You will probably want one for yourself too.
– John Merrow, Education Correspondent, PBS NewsHour, and President, Learning Matters, Inc.

Check out Merrow’s full review of Teaching with Heart on his blog, Taking Note, where you can also read one of the poems featured in the new book, “Purple” by Alexis Rotella.

I remember exulting in poems I had never read or even heard of! The book is available everywhere now and makes a great end-of-the-year gift to a favorite teacher.
– Taylor Mali, slam poet educator (full review at Taylor Mali’s website)

Teaching with Heart reminded me why there is something deep about teaching that no data, no class, no observation can show. Teaching is poetic and deserves a muted sense of awe just as soul-sparking as the poems contained within this collection. … I am thankful for yet another resource that brought me both to earth and the clouds about the purpose of teaching and learning. Teaching with Heart strummed a complex chord of teaching in a way that my usual stockpile of research and pedagogical reads can’t do. It resonated with that hidden but present purpose of why teaching is worth every calorie of energy.
– Chase Mielke, Michigan Teacher of the Year nominee, Quantum Learning for Teachers facilitator

Visit Mielke’s blog for his full review of Teaching with Heart

Paired with poetry that has stood the test of time, the reflections of these educators remind me of the sheer volume of good people–strong people–that share this profession. In an era where teachers are sometimes devalued by society, it is important to let these strong voices anchor us, to help us refuse to be swept away by a current of negativity. This book does that. It’s an anchor, and a beautiful one at that.
Amy Harter, high school teacher and Teaching with Heart contributor

Read Harter’s full review on her blog

These are the poems we keep by the nightstand or framed on our desk, literally or figuratively. The 250-word essays, paired up with the poems, are like lifelines. […] For the past week, I’ve come home from a day of what seems to be increasingly loud noise, squabbling and vigilant discipline measures, trying to get the tone of my classroom community back on track, and I have found solace in the words of my colleagues in this collection, where the poets have written words that go deep into the emotional core of what it means to be a teacher.
Kevin Hodgson, sixth grade teacher and Teaching with Heart contributor

Read Hodgson’s full review on the Middleweb blog

These 90 powerful companion pieces represent the narratives and courage of the three million teachers who make all the difference in the world. The contributors of Teaching with Heart use poems to speak their own truths — about what attracts teachers to the profession and what sustains them.
Samuel Reed III, middle school teacher and Philadelphia Writing Project consultant

See Reed’s full review at The Notebook

The book contains some of the most majestic, memorable writing I’ve ever read. Whether as a parent, grandparent or educator, you’ve probably experienced the exhilaration, and sometimes frustration, of working with youngsters. You’ll recognize, identify with and enjoy the complex array of emotions described here.
Joe Nathan, Director at the Center for School Change

Visit the HometownSource blog for Nathan’s full review

I return to this “devotional” again and again.  The poems submitted by my fellow teachers echo my thoughts, mirror my feelings, and give me the courage to teach from my heart. This is the one essential tool in my writing teacher’s toolbox.  I could not teach writing without this book.
Robin Holland, Co-director of the Columbus Area Writing Project

Check out Holland’s blog with the full review

Teaching With Heart is the rarest kind of book: one that actually does justice to the full range of emotion and skill teaching requires. These remarkable poems selected by teachers and accompanied by their moving commentaries provide a personal and powerful antidote to the caricatures and misperceptions we often see in the headlines or popular culture, and speak to the heart of the teaching experience.
– Wendy Kopp, Founder, Teach For America & CEO, Teach For All

Although we understand that teaching is an intellectual activity, we also understand that it is a moral activity. To do it well great teachers engage both the mind and the heart. Teaching with Heart portrays that wonderful combination of the heart and mind.
– Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison

At its best, teaching is like poetry: it inspires, challenges, and transforms. In this exhilarating collection, ninety teachers use poetry to illustrate the ups, downs, joys, frustrations, and, ultimately, the redeeming value of both teaching and poetry. In spite of the increasing demands on teachers, the disrespect with which they’re treated, and the appalling conditions in which so many work, these teachers, and millions of others, continue to practice their craft with courage, hope, and love. This book will be a bedside companion to teachers who need to know they are our nation’s unsung treasure, as well as a wake-up call to the nation about the value of its teachers.
– Sonia Nieto, professor emerita, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and author of Finding Joy in Teaching Students of Diverse Backgrounds: Culturally Responsive and Socially Just Practices in U.S. Schools

As a poet and a teacher, I’m always looking for what is essential and how it can be of use. In Teaching with Heart, you will find both food and tools for anyone who wants to learn or teach. It inspires and models the use of what matters in life and community. A must for any classroom.
– Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Awakening and Seven Thousand Ways to Listen

“Warn the whole Universe that your heart can no longer live without real love.” Those words from the poet Hafiz are the reason you must buy this book, as the best possible field guide to accompany you through the brambles, over the chasms, up and down the treacherous slopes that every teacher with heart traverses every day of the year, while carrying society’s most sacred trust.
– Diana Chapman Walsh, president emerita, Wellesley College

Once again Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner have brought to print the courageous voices of a multitude of teachers speaking to and for their colleagues and students in classrooms across the nation and around the globe. Parker J. Palmer’s foreword, Taylor Mali’s introduction and Sarah Brown Wessling’s afterword are power-filled. What a great time of year for this amazing collection of writing and poetic witness.
– Robert “Chip” Wood, educator, activist, author and co-founder of Northeast Foundation for Children

Table of Contents for Teaching with Heart

A Note to Our Readers by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, Editors
Foreword by Parker J. Palmer
Introduction by Taylor Mali

Relentless Optimism
Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus” reflection (Randi Weingarten)
Fleet Foxes’ “Helplessness Blues” reflection (Stephen Lazar)
Marianne Williamson’s “A Return to Love” reflection (Rachel Willis)
Edgar Lee Masters’s “George Gray” reflection (Mel Glenn)
Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken” reflection (Kaitlin Roig)
Rudyard Kipling’s “if” reflection (Andy Wood)
Loris Malaguzzi’s “The Hundred Languages of Children” reflection (Tiffany Poirier)
Gerald Jonas’s “Lessons” reflection (Julie A. Gorlewski)
Taylor Mali’s “What Teachers Make” reflection (Kevin Hodgson)

Teachable Moments
Rainier Maria Rilke’s “All will come again into its strength” reflection (Gregory John)
Richard Wilbur’s “The Writer” reflection (Emily Brisse)
Theodore Roethke’s “The Waking” reflection (Nora Landon)
Emily Dickinson’s “ʼTis so much joy! ’Tis so much joy!” reflection (Lily Eskelsen García)
Paul Boswell’s “This Splendid Speck” reflection (Christine Intagliata)
Stanley Kunitz’s “Halley’s Comet” reflection (Rob Maitra)
Emily Dickinson’s “If I can stop one Heart from breaking” reflection (Annette Breaux)
John O’Donohue’s “Beannacht” reflection (Emanuel Pariser)
D. H. Lawrence’s “The Best of School” reflection (Tom Vander Ark)

Beauty in the Ordinary
Fernando Pessoa’s “To Be Great, Be Entire” reflection (Vicki Den Ouden)
Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Famous” reflection (Safaa Abdel-Magid)
Pablo Neruda’s “In Praise of Ironing” reflection (Cindy O’Donnell-Allen)
Louise Glück’s “Aubade” reflection (Kent Dickson)
W. H. Auden’s “In Memory of W. B. Yeats” reflection (Jamie Raskin)
Stephen Crane’s “LVIII” reflection (Liam Corley)
Mary Oliver’s “Crossing the Swamp” reflection (Maureen Geraghty)
Philip Levine’s “What Work Is” reflection (Holly Masturzo)
Walt Whitman’s “Section 2 from Song of Myself “ reflection (Jennifer Boyden)

Enduring Impact
Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Kindness” reflection (Hannah Cushing)
Margaret Atwood’s “You Begin” reflection (Karen Harris)
Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Please Call Me by My True Names” reflection (Ruth Charney)
William Stafford’s “Deciding” reflection (Michael Poutiatine)
Li-Young Lee’s “Eating Together” reflection (Wanda S. Praisner)
John O’Donohue’s “For Presence” reflection (David Henderson)
Tara Sophia Mohr’s “Your Other Name” reflection (Lianne Raymond)
Jim R. Rogers’s “Good Morning!” reflection (Jane Zalkin)
Galway Kinnell’s “Saint Francis and the Sow” reflection (Kirsten Olson)

The Work Is Hard
Antonio Machado’s “VI” reflection (Michael L. Crauderueff)
Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” reflection (Kathleen Melville)
Calvin Coolidge’s “Persistence” reflection (April Niemela)
Sharon Olds’s “On the Subway” reflection (Lori Ungemah)
Anonymous’s “Work Gloves” reflection (Tom Meyer)
William Stafford’s “Next Time” reflection (Leanne Grabel Sander)
Wislawa Szymborska’s “Life While-You-Wait” reflection (Veta Goler)
Emily Dickinson’s “We grow accustomed to the Dark—” reflection (Rachel Fentin)
Walt Whitman’s “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” reflection (Ronald Gordon)

Tupac Shakur’s “The Rose That Grew from Concrete” reflection (Jose Vilson)
Philip Levine’s “M. Degas Teaches Art and Science at Durfee Intermediate School, Detroit, 1942” reflection (Laura Roop)
Mel King’s “Struggle” reflection (Susan Rodgerson)
Langston Hughes’s “Theme for English B” reflection (Paola Tineo)
Irene Rutherford McLeod’s “The Lone Dog” reflection (LouAnne Johnson)
Billy Collin’s “On Turning Ten” reflection (Will Bangs)
Edgar A. Guest’s “It Couldn’t Be Done” reflection (Glendean Hamilton)
Lao-Tzu’s “On Leadership” reflection (Larry Rosenstock)
William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” reflection (Caridad Caro)

Rumi’s “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,” reflection (Hugh Birdsall)
Mary Oliver’s “The Poet Dreams of the Classroom” reflection (Katie Johnson)
Langston Hughes’s “Mother to Son” reflection (Ron Walker)
Jane Kenyon’s “Otherwise” reflection (Alison Overseth)
Richard Brautigan’s “The Memoirs of Jesse James” reflection (Stephen Mahoney)
Marge Piercy’s “To be of use” reflection (Amy Christie)
Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” reflection (Mary Beth Hertz)
Olive Senior’s “Colonial Girls School” reflection (Dena Simmons)
The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell’s “An Innocent Freedom Writer” reflection (Kayleigh Colombero)

Moment to Moment
Bill Holm’s “Advice” reflection (Teri O’Donnell)
Katha Pollitt’s “Lilacs in September” reflection (David S. Goldstein)
Herman Hesse’s “The Ferryman” reflection (Rachel Boechler)
Mark Nepo’s “The Appointment” reflection (Judy Sorum Brown)
Captain Ed Davidson’s “Footprints by the Sea” reflection (Sandi Bisceglia)
Rumi’s “The Guest House” reflection (Richard H. Ackerman)
Chuang Tzu’s “Flight from the Shadow” reflection (Mark Bielang)
Thomas Merton’s “In Silence” reflection (Thomas A. Stewart)
Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love” reflection (Tim Ryan)

John Daniel’s “A Prayer among Friends” reflection (Melissa Madenski)
Maya Angelou’s “Alone” reflection (Nina Ashur)
Stephen Dunn’s “The Sacred” reflection (Dan Mindich)
James A. Autry’s “On Firing A Salesman” reflection (Brian Dixon)
Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins, to make much of Time” reflection (Cordell Jones)
Lucille Clifton’s “blessing the boats” reflection (Kathleen Glaser)
Raymond Carver’s “Happiness” reflection (Dennis Huffman)
X. J. Kennedy’s “Little Elegy” reflection (Kenneth Rocke)
Mel Glenn’s “A Teacher’s Contract” reflection (Harriet Sanford)

Called to Teach
Gary Snyder’s “For the Children” reflection (Julia Hill)
Maya Angelou’s “The Lesson” reflection (Jovan Miles)
Gregory Orr’s “It’s not magic; it isn’t a trick.” reflection (John Mayer)
Judy Sorum Brown’s “Hummingbirds asleep” reflection (Sandie Merriam)
John Fox’s “Deeply Listening” reflection (Nell Etheredge)
Alexis Rotella’s “Purple” reflection (Leatha Fields-Carey)
William Stafford’s “The Way It Is” reflection (Donna Y. Chin)
Langston Hughes’s “I loved my friend” reflection (Margaret Wilson)
Wendell Berry’s “The Real Work” reflection (Amy Harter)

Using Poetry for Reflection and Conversation
Afterword by Sarah Brown Wessling

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Also see: Resources for Teaching and Poetry on the Web

The Contributors

Thank you to all the wonderful educators who contributed their reflection with their favorite poem.

Safaa Abdel-Magid has been teaching elementary-level classes in the Khartoum International Community School in Khartoum, The Sudan, for four years. She was born and raised in The Sudan, attended college in the United States, and moved back to The Sudan after she finished college.

Richard H. Ackerman, a former school teacher and administrator, is a professor of educational leadership at the University of Maine. He is the coauthor of The Wounded Leader: How Real Leadership Emerges in Times of Crisis.

Nina Ashur has been an educator for more than thirty years in public schools, a community college, and a private university. Currently she is an associate professor and director of the Learning Enrichment Center at Azusa Pacific University, where for nineteen years she has coordinated a variety of academic support services and taught undergraduates.

Will Bangs is a middle school humanities teacher in Northampton, Massachusetts. He is a proud recipient of the Pioneer Valley Teacher of Excellence award. When he is not teaching, he’s usually hanging out with his family or writing music.

Mark Bielang has been the superintendent of Paw Paw Public Schools in Michigan since 1995. Prior to that he was a high school principal, assistant principal, and teacher. In 2009–2010 he served as president of the American Association of School Administrators.

Hugh Birdsall began teaching high school French in 1977. Since 1995 he has taught English to speakers of other languages at the Regional Multicultural Magnet School in New London, Connecticut. Since 2001 he has also served on the summer faculty at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Sandi Bisceglia is the executive director of the International Network of Principals’ Centers (INPC), originally founded at Harvard University, and past president of the Florida Association of School Administrators. As a twenty-three-year pre-K–8 public school principal emeritus, she now spends her time creating “conversation venues for school leaders” through INPC and the website

Rachel Boechler is the superintendent of schools in the Fox Point–Bayside School District in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Previously, for five years she was the chief operating officer at CPS Human Resource Services in Sacramento, California. Her career spans twenty-nine years in various roles in K–12 education. She has been engaged in the work of the Center for Courage & Renewal for over twelve years.

Jennifer Boyden taught creative writing, literature, and composition for nearly twenty years at various places, including Walla Walla Community College, Whitman College, and Soochow University in China. She also teaches independent and interdisciplinary, collaborative writing workshops. She is the author of The Mouths of Grazing Things and The Declarable Future.

Annette Breaux is an education speaker, author, and consultant. A former classroom teacher, curriculum coordinator, and teacher induction coordinator, she is the author of the best-selling 101 Answers for New Teachers and Their Mentors. She has also coauthored books with both Harry Wong and Todd Whitaker.

Emily Brisse has worked as an English teacher for nine years at Minnesota’s Watertown-Mayer High School. She earned her master of fine arts degree from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and loves teaching creative writing best.

Judy Sorum Brown teaches leadership for the public good through the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. She is also a writer and a poet. Her latest book is The Art and Spirit of Leadership.

Caridad Caro has been an educator in New York City public schools since 1995, teaching at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School for twelve years. She is currently at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx as a founding assistant principal.

Ruth Charney cofounded Northeast Foundation for Children and Responsive Classroom. She taught students from kindergarten through high school for over thirty-five years and worked with classroom teachers and school leaders to effect progressive change. She authored several books, including Teaching Children to Care.

Donna Y. Chin is a literacy coach and teacher of English as a second language at Shuang Wen School (P.S. 184) in Lower Manhattan. She has been teaching and coaching in the New York City public school system for fourteen years. She lives with her family in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Amy Christie taught third grade in New York City through Teach For America in 2001. In 2006 she founded and directed the college office at the Bronx Lab School. Currently she is the network director of college for Achievement First Public Charter Schools.

Kayleigh Colombero received her bachelor’s degree from Smith College and her master’s degree from Western New England University. She taught middle school and high school English and history for four years. She is currently the director of Project Coach and coordinator of urban education for Smith College.

Liam Corley has taught for about fifteen years. He is an associate professor of English at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Liam is spending 2013 to 2016 on military leave to serve as an instructor at the US Naval Academy. He is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan).

Michael L. Crauderueff has been a language teacher for thirty-five years, and is currently teaching high school Spanish and peace studies at Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

Hannah Cushing is embarking on her eighth year of teaching high school language arts. Currently she has the honor to spend her days learning with and from the students at West High School, a setting IV emotional and behavioral disorders program in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

Vicki Den Ouden has worked as an elementary school classroom, learning assistance, and reading intervention teacher for almost thirty years. After completing her master’s degree, she also taught university courses in literacy education. She resides in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.

Kent Dickson is a professor of Spanish and Latin American literature at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Previously he was a middle and high school teacher of Spanish in North Hollywood, California. He has been a teacher for eighteen years.

Brian Dixon is the founder of the Mentorship Academy, a project-based public charter school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He helps classroom teachers and school administrators with practical strategies to prepare today’s students for the changing world of tomorrow.

Nell Etheredge is a Teach For America (TFA) corps member teaching fifth grade in Baltimore City Public Schools. Before joining TFA, Nell was a legislative policy analyst with the Council of State Governments in Washington, DC, working in the areas of education and health policy.

Rachel Fentin is a first-year teacher in Detroit. She teaches fourth grade at University Prep Academy–Mark Murray.

Leatha Fields-Carey has taught in North Carolina in Johnston County Schools for twenty years. She currently teaches English and serves as the testing coordinator for Johnston County Middle College High School, a nontraditional public high school in Smithfield, North Carolina.

Lily Eskelsen García is vice president of the National Education Association. She began as a school lunch lady, became a kindergarten aide, and then became a sixth-grade teacher. Nine years later, she was named Utah Teacher of the Year. She is one of the country’s most influential Hispanic educators.

Maureen Geraghty has been teaching for over twenty years. Fifteen of those years have been in some type of alternative school setting. She is a published writer/poet who is greatly involved with the Oregon Writer’s Project. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Kathleen Glaser has over thirty years’ experience in public schools, serving as a teacher, principal, and college professor. She is a Center for Courage & Renewal facilitator, received the Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leadership Award, and is a cofounder of the Chesapeake Public Charter School in southern Maryland.

Mel Glenn retired in 2001, after teaching thirty-four years of high school English. He is the author of twelve books for young adults, including Jump Ball, Split Image, and Who Killed Mr. Chippendale? and speaks across the country at conferences and schools. His website is

David S. Goldstein is a senior lecturer at the University of Washington Bothell, where he has taught for fifteen years, and also serves as director of its Teaching and Learning Center. He is the recipient of the University of Washington Distinguished Teaching Award. His research and writing lie in the scholarship of teaching and learning as well as in ethnic American literature.

Veta Goler is arts and humanities division chair and associate professor of dance at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She has been a dancer and dance teacher for over thirty-five years. She is also a national Circle of Trust facilitator and leads retreats and workshops with the Center for Courage & Renewal.

Ronald Gordon has been teaching for forty years. He is full professor of communication at the Hilo campus of the University of Hawai’i. He teaches seniorlevel courses in listening, dialogue, and leadership, and is the author of On Becoming an Attuned Communicator and Actualizing: Mindsets and Methods for Becoming and Being.

Julie A. Gorlewski is assistant professor in the Department of Secondary Education at the State University of New York at New Paltz. In addition to serving as a parent advocate and education activist, she taught English in grades 7 through 12 for fifteen years. She has written several books and coedited Using Standards and High-Stakes Testing for Students: Exploiting Power with Critical Pedagogy.

Glendean Hamilton is a recent graduate of Smith College. She was a student teacher during the time of her commentary. Prior to that, she had numerous teaching internships while in college. In 2013 she will begin teaching sixthgrade English language arts in Lawrence Public Schools, Massachusetts.

Karen Harris is a lead teacher at the Favorite Poems Project’s Summer Institute for Educators and an English teacher at Brookline High School. She is the mother of two children, and guitarist, songwriter, and singer for the rock band the Vivs. She lives in Arlington, Massachusetts.

Amy Harter is in her fifth year of teaching. She currently works at Sheboygan Falls High School in Wisconsin, teaching sophomore and senior English, Advanced Placement literature, and theater arts. She maintains a professional, reflective teaching blog at, and looks forward to the rest of her career journey.

David Henderson has been involved in pre-K–12 education for over twenty years. He currently teaches educational leadership at Montana State University in Bozeman, and serves as a facilitator with the Center for Courage & Renewal. He continues to study and research the intersection of the inner life of leaders with their practice of leadership.

Mary Beth Hertz has been teaching in Philadelphia since 2002. She is certified in four different areas and holds a master’s degree in instructional technology. She was named an ISTE Emerging Leader in 2010, and in 2013 was PAECT Outstanding Teacher of the Year and an ASCD Emerging Leader.

Julia Hill began teaching in 1998 with one trial-by-fire year with Teach For America in the Mississippi Delta. In the time since, she has pursued her passion for bringing progressive educational philosophy to urban communities from Minneapolis to the South Bronx and currently works as a reading specialist in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Kevin Hodgson has been teaching sixth grade for ten years at the William E. Norris Elementary School in Southampton, Massachusetts. He is also the technology liaison with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and writes regularly about teaching and composition on his blog, Kevin’s Meandering Mind (

Dennis Huffman has been program director of Prince George’s Community College at University Town Center in Hyattsville, Maryland, since 2000. He grew up on an Ohio apple farm and holds a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language and a doctorate in community college education from George Mason University.

Christine Intagliata spent thirty years as a freelance writer and producer of nonfiction television and videos. She is working toward a dual master’s in elementary education and special education with the Urban Teacher Center, a clinical master’s program that trains teachers and places them in urban schools. She is a teaching resident in the second grade at Wheatley Education Campus in Washington, DC.

Gregory John has worked in education for twenty-six years—thirteen as a teacher, twelve in educational leadership, and for the last eleven years as a school principal. He now serves students as a principal at Starr King Elementary School in San Francisco, where students from all walks of life come to learn how to read, write, think, and navigate their differences with grace.

Katie Johnson has taught in primary grades in Maine and Washington for thirty years. She has published books about writing (Doing Words, More Than Words, and Reading into Writing) and about movement and vision (Red Flags for Primary Teachers). Leaning more toward poetry lately, she admires Billy Collins and Valerie Worth.

LouAnne Johnson is a teacher and the author of several books, including Dangerous Minds, Teaching Outside the Box, Kick-Start Your Class, and the young-adult novel Muchacho. She also writes for young readers under the pen name Alyce Shirleydaughter. Her website is

Cordell Jones has worked at all three levels of schools (elementary, middle, and high school) since 1993. Currently he is principal of Alamo Heights Junior School in San Antonio, Texas; an adjunct faculty member of Trinity University; and executive board member of the School Leaders Network.

Nora Landon has been teaching English to sophomores and seniors for over eight years, beginning at Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, NY. She is currently a member of the faculty at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Stephen Lazar is a National Board Certified history teacher who cofounded Harvest Collegiate High School in New York City. He works with teachers across the city and the nation to support inquiry-based instruction, project-based learning, and Common Core State Standards implementation.

Melissa Madenski began teaching in 1971, the first year women could wear pants in the public schools in her district. Currently she teaches writing to middle school students and adults.

Stephen Mahoney has been a teacher and a principal for twenty-five years. In 2005 he started the Springfield Renaissance School, an expeditionary learning mentor school in Springfield, Massachusetts, for students in grades 6 through 12. Renaissance teachers and students have proved that your zip code does not have to be your destiny.

Rob Maitra is director of programs at Harlem RBI. Previously, he was a New York City public school teacher; a teacher education professor at Bryn Mawr College, Hunter College, and Teachers College, Columbia University; and director of educational advancement at the Boys’ Club of New York.

Holly Masturzo serves as professor of humanities and English at Florida State College at Jacksonville. For twenty years she has taught in a variety of settings—at a research university, a historically black college, and a range of community sites. Her approach to arts learning appears in essays in Third Mind: Creative Writing and Visual Art and The Alphabet of the Trees: A Guide to Nature Writing.

John Mayer has taught first and second grade at Catlin Gabel School in Portland, Oregon, for six years, after studying for a master of arts in teaching from Lewis and Clark College. Before moving to Portland, he began his teaching career as a preschool teacher in Washington, DC, and considers himself very lucky to work with the brilliance of young minds.

Kathleen Melville has been teaching for nine years. She currently teaches English and Spanish at a small public high school in Philadelphia. Kathleen promotes teacher leadership with Teachers Lead Philly.

Sandie Merriam is a thirty-eight-year veteran science and special education teacher at North Myrtle Beach Middle School in Little River, South Carolina. She has been an advocate for youth empowerment in the areas of racial equity, justice education, service learning, and parent-school partnerships.

Tom Meyer began teaching in public high schools in 1986. Currently he is an associate professor of secondary education at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He directs the Hudson Valley Writing Project (a site of the National Writing Project), a lively network of teachers working together to improve literacy and writing instruction in the Hudson Valley.

Jovan Miles is a nine-year veteran of public education in Atlanta, Georgia. He currently works as an instructional coach supporting math and science teachers in the Atlanta public school system. His professional interests include culturally relevant pedagogy, public education as a tool for social justice, and early childhood education.

Dan Mindich is a teacher and administrator at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawai’i. In his over twenty years of teaching in public and private schools, team teaching has been central to Dan’s work, and he recently completed his doctoral dissertation looking at teacher learning communities.

April Niemela has thirteen years of experience in seventh- through twelfth-grade English language arts classrooms, and has witnessed seismic changes in the world of education. She is currently a curriculum resource teacher, charged with providing teachers with professional development and mentoring new educators.

Teri O’Donnell is a high school biology teacher in Northern California. For twenty years she has taught all grades from seventh through twelfth and every level from middle school life science to Advanced Placement biology. She is a founding member of her high school, now in its seventeenth year, and serves as science department chairperson.

Cindy O’Donnell-Allen is a full professor in the English department at Colorado State University (CSU) and director of the CSU Writing Project. She was a secondary-level teacher in Oklahoma for eleven years and wrote Tough Talk, Tough Texts: Teaching English to Change the World. She serves on the National Writing Project board of directors.

Kirsten Olson is a founding member of the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA), a national activist organization that aims to transform education through local organizing, and author of Wounded by School. Prior to this, she was a university instructor for eleven years.

Alison Overseth is the executive director of the Partnership for AfterSchool Education (PASE), a nonprofit that works with over 1,600 community-based youth-serving agencies to improve the quality of after-school education programs available to young people living in poverty in New York City.

Emanuel Pariser cofounded the Community School for students who have failed to thrive in high school in 1973, and codirected the school until 2006. In 2011 he cofounded Maine’s first charter school: the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences in Hinckley, Maine, an agricultural and forestry-themed school for students who have been marginalized in conventional education.

Tiffany Poirier is an elementary school teacher and speaker who believes in the infinite gifts of every child. She is the author of Q Is for Question: An ABC of Philosophy ( and the founder of the Teaching Coats Project. Tiffany teaches online courses at Richer Learning, and she lives and works in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.

Michael Poutiatine has taught and administrated in traditional and nontraditional schools, public, private, and independent, for over twenty-five years, with students from the middle school level to the doctoral candidate level. He currently teaches leadership at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, and works with several school reform initiatives based in Washington State.

Wanda S. Praisner has taught for twenty-nine years at the elementary school level as well as in continuing education courses and adult writing workshops. She is currently a poet-in-residence for the New Jersey Writers Project, cosponsored by Playwrights Theater and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

Jamie Raskin is a professor of constitutional law at American University Washington College of Law, a Maryland state senator, and majority whip of the Maryland Senate. He is founder of the Marshal Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project and author of several books, including We the Students, which examines the Supreme Court’s treatment of America’s high school students.

Lianne Raymond has taught for twenty years in both middle and high school classrooms. She currently teaches grades 11 and 12 in psychology at Mark R. Isfeld Secondary School in Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada.

Kenneth Rocke is the director for the Pioneer Valley District and School Assistance Center. His team works with teachers, coaches, and administrators in schools throughout Western Massachusetts. A retired superintendent, he began his career in education teaching mill and house carpentry at Franklin County Technical School.

Susan Rodgerson graduated from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University and founded Artists For Humanity in 1991. She has received many awards, including an honorary doctorate from Tufts University (2008); the Massachusetts College of Art and Design Award for Excellence in Education (2006); and Social Entrepreneur in Residence from PACE University (2005).

Kaitlin Roig teaches first grade at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. She has taught for seven years. Knowing that positive social change was needed, Kaitlin founded Classes 4 Classes (, a nonprofit organization that enables K–5 students to learn compassion and kindness through exchanges with other schools.

Laura Roop is the director of outreach at the University of Michigan School of Education. She directed the Oakland Writing Project, a National Writing Project site, for sixteen years. In 1981 she began working as a high school English teacher, county-level language arts consultant, and state-level networking specialist.

Larry Rosenstock is CEO and founding principal of High Tech High (, a network of thirteen K–12 public charter schools in California, and is dean of the High Tech Graduate School of Education. He taught carpentry, served as an attorney at the Harvard Center for Law and Education, and directed the federal New Urban High School Project.

Tim Ryan is a congressman in his sixth term serving the Ohio Thirteenth Congressional District, which includes Youngstown, Warren, Akron, and Kent. He is a relentless advocate for increased investments in and improvements to American education and author of A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit.

Leanne Grabel Sander has received funding for an illustrated children’s book, The Little Poet, and is working on a new spoken-word greatest hits show—Call Them Jewels. She has thirty-years’ experience as a poet and writer and eleven as a special education/language arts teacher.

Harriet Sanford is the president and CEO of the NEA Foundation and has led the work of the foundation since 2005. She began her career as a public school teacher, which led to a senior executive career of more than twenty-eight years, with twenty-two as president and CEO of nonprofit and public organizations.

Dena Simmons was raised by a resilient mother who escaped Antigua to come to the United States. After graduating with honors from Middlebury College, she returned to the Bronx as a middle school teacher. She is studying for her doctorate of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, where her research is on teacher preparedness as it relates to bullying in the middle school setting.

Thomas A. Stewart was an English teacher in Kentucky for ten years. After two years with the Kentucky Department of Education, he was a public school district administrator for five years. He teaches for Austin Peay State University’s College of Education and is cofounder of Contemplative Learning Solutions Educational Consulting.

Paola Tineo first became involved with education through her own experience growing up in urban cities throughout the Northeast. She taught Spanish for a few years at a Boston public charter school and has recently moved to teach English as a second language in a district charter school in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Lori Ungemah taught high school English in Brooklyn for eleven years. She is currently a founding faculty member of Guttman Community College at the City University of New York, where she is an assistant professor of English.

Tom Vander Ark is the author of Getting Smart: How Digital Learning Is Changing the World and CEO of Getting Smart ( He is a partner in Learn Capital and was executive director of education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a public school superintendent.

Jose Vilson is an educator, Web designer, speaker, and writer at He has been featured on Edutopia, GOOD, CNN, and TEDx, and sits on the board of directors for the Center for Teaching Quality. You can find him at

Ron Walker is a founding member and the founding executive director of the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color. He has forty-five years’ experience as a principal, vice principal, and middle school teacher and a passion for the affirmative development of all students—especially male students of color.

Randi Weingarten has been president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) since 2008. She previously headed New York City’s United Federation of Teachers. She initiated the AFT’s Quality Education Agenda, which advances reforms grounded in evidence, equity, scalability, and sustainability to reclaim the promise of public education.

Rachel Willis began teaching in 2004 through Teach For America. She was the 2009 Atlanta Public Schools Elementary Teacher of the Year and a Milken Educator Award recipient in 2010. She is currently director of teacher and alumni leadership development for Teach For America in the Washington, DC, region.

Margaret Wilson was a classroom teacher for fifteen years, and also taught at the University School of Nashville in Tennessee and in the San Bernardino City Unified School District in California. She is currently leaving Responsive Classroom to become the assistant head of a school and a teacher in Riverside, California.

Andy Wood has taught and coached at the high school level since moving to the United States from England in 2005, and served for three years as the program director of Project Coach, building capacity in urban youth through coaching and leadership opportunities. He currently teaches social studies at Northampton High School in Massachusetts and is the varsity boys’ soccer coach.

Jane Zalkin recently retired, after almost thirty-five years of teaching four- and five-year-old children in neighborhoods with residents of very low socioeconomic status outside of Charleston, South Carolina. She was teaching the children and even grandchildren of her first students by the time she retired.

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Meet the Editors

Sam Intrator

SAM M. INTRATOR is principal of the Smith College Campus School, and professor of education and child study at Smith College. A Kellogg National Leadership Fellow, he is the author/editor of seven books, including The Quest for Mastery: Positive Youth Development Through Out-of-School Programs.

Megan Scribner

MEGAN SCRIBNER has three decades of experience editing books, reports, and essays, including co-editing two other poetry anthologies with Intrator: Teaching with Fire and Leading from Within. In 2012, she received the Takoma Park Azalea Award for School Activist and continues to be active in her community.

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