• Josette Abruzzini

Once a Teacher...


Once a teacher always a teacher. Five years into my retirement I still succumb to June’s academic reflections. For 2018-19 two experiences stand out. Perhaps they’re even worth sharing.

I’ve been visiting fourth graders at McNichols Plaza in Scranton for four years. At first I helped with the math program, but this year my teacher-friend was teaching language arts, science and social studies. I was invited to help with one of her special projects!

Seventy of us – Mandy Montoro, her three classes of fourth graders, and I - brainstormed ideas and came up with three requirements for picture books that the students would write. 1. Each student would write their own story. 2. Each story would relate to water and what they were learning in their science unit. And 3. The stories in each book would combine to tell one main story. It started out as a challenging task!

We decided that around twenty stories would be included in each book, with one book per class.

Our next challenge was to find a premise for each story. It took a while but we managed to find it. What did each student think of as Mrs. Montoro taught condensation, precipitation, etc.? Between mermaids, pools, water parks, muddy football games and fishing tales, they came up with an abundance of story ideas! And most stories started something like… “On the day Mrs. Montoro taught precipitation, I remembered the time my family and I got rained on at the beach…” They were off and running!

Over the course of five or six weeks I made weekly visits to their classes. At first I read a few water-related stories that I had written. Then I read them water-based picture books that I’d found at the library. Mrs. Montoro and I helped them write and revise their stories. Afterwards she worked with them to edit and copy their work. The students even made beautiful illustrations!

Before long their manuscripts were sent off to a publishing company. Unfortunately, I was away when the books came in, but I caught up with them in May. I couldn’t wait to see their published picture books!

I’ll never forget the moment I walked into the library of McNichols Plaza Elementary School. All three classes were seated on the floor. Their teachers stood behind them. And on a table lay a huge white sheet cake with yellow lettering that read Thank you Mrs. Abruzzini. A lovely image of a book had been drawn onto the top of the cake.

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I’d never been more surprised.

Their kindness overwhelmed me -

I’d been fortunate to be welcomed into their classroom,

I’d been grateful to share my books and get their feedback.

I’d been honored to “plant a few seeds” to help them value water and take care of our blue planet. I’d loved their water stories.

But on that day, I was overwhelmed.

Hats off to Mandy Montoro and her colleagues at McNichols Plaza Elementary School. They work hard on behalf of their curious hard-working play-loving students. These young people are fortunate to have these dedicated educators.

Another experience that I’ll fondly remember from this year is my writing class with Mrs. Carol King. For the last five years this writing professor has dedicated herself to encouraging adult writers. For most of those years I’ve sat in her Wednesday morning class in the Abington Community Library.

I joined Carol's class shortly after retiring from teaching and moving to NEPA five years ago.. I've picked up more than a few tips on putting pen to paper and fingertips to keyboard.

I learned who I am as a writer and which genres I most enjoy writing. I’ve found my own writing path. I’ve learned to express my hopes and fears, the essence of my experiences, and the fanciful side of my imagination.

I’ve also been introduced to other writers who care deeply about their craft and about the communities in which they live. It’s been an honor to hear their voices grow through their powerful words. We’ve supported each other in writing and in life. We’ve shared our successes and we’ve become friends.

This year is special in that we’ve compiled a few of our writing pieces into our second anthology. It’s called The Ryon Room, after the room in which we meet. Of course, without Carol it never would’ve been published.

I want to thank Carol for sharing her wealth of talents and her kind spirit. She's been instrumental in establishing our writing community. Her voice will always be a part of ours. We writers from The Ryon Room wish Carol and her husband Jim a healthy and fulfilling summer. We look forward to getting together again in September!

On this rainy June day I’m looking back on the 2018-19 school year and am feeling part of the great tradition of learning. Once a student, always a student. There’s much to be grateful for.

#water #writing #McNicholsPlazaElementarySchool #picturebooks #teachers

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