Visiting “my” school

Hi everyone,

Pictures of me at David Harrison Elementary yesterday have already been posted on Facebook by others but I still want to say how much I enjoyed visiting with 4th grade teachers — Roxie McQuarry, Shannon Bossing, and Julie Vaughan — plus all three classes of 4th grade students.

The kids are into a poetry unit and one of my books, A PLACE TO START A FAMILY, is on their reading list this year. They wanted to know the differences in how an author prepares to write poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. They had a lot of excellent questions, always the sign of strong preparation in the classroom, and I enjoyed providing some answers. I’ll go back later to see how they’re doing so that will be another highlight of my year.

Seeing some customers

Hi everyone,

I had fun yesterday afternoon visiting the combined classes of 1st grade students at Rountree Elementary School in Springfield. The kids were familiar with three of my books and with teachers’ help had prepared questions to ask me. I got lots of hugs and bright smiles and excellent questions. A lovely way to spend a while and get the new year off to a good start. Sandy attended Rountree, our daughter Robin went there, too, and an aunt and uncle lived a block away, so I have a soft spot for that school.

Next week I’ll be at David Harrison Elementary talking to 4th graders. I sort of have a soft spot for that school too!

Oh I do love it so

Hi everyone,


Yesterday Sandy and I attended an open house at David Harrison Elementary School ( where I wallowed in the delight of getting hugged by kids who spotted me in the halls and waved at by busy teachers who were engaged in their visits with parents. I learned that one of my recent books, A PLACE TO START A FAMILY, is in a new 4th grade curriculum book and I was invited to come read from it to the kids. How’s that for a cool coincidence??

This was my first visit to Harrison Elementary this school year and I always look forward to being there. I met one new teacher this time and loved seeing principal Josh Holt and so many familiar faces among the teachers who have been there for a while, a few of them, including 4th grade teacher Roxie McQuarry, since the school opened ten years ago. Another wonderful teacher, Dawn Licata, has taught her 9-year career at Harrison. She and some of her 2nd graders appear in the book I did with Mary Jo Fresch, 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR WRITING SUCCESS.

What makes me smile?

Hi everyone,

What could possibly be more fun than visiting with a bunch of 4th grade students about writing poetry? Visiting with a bunch of 4th grade students at David Harrison Elementary School. And that’s what I’ll be doing this afternoon.

Next week when AND THE BULLFROGS SING comes out from Holiday House I’ll pay a visit to the student body at Harrison for a while to hear kids read their own writing and read from the new book, but today I’ll have the three 4th grade classes all to myself in the cafeteria and we’ll talk about poetry. How sweet is that?

Honoring teachers

Hi everyone,

Yesterday I mailed my check for a ticket to this year’s Teacher Appreciation Banquet, which is always attended by 800-1,000 teachers, family, and supporters of public education. It has been held every year since 1994. Nancy Graff and I organized the original banquet. I was master of ceremonies from 1994-2000 and guest speaker in 2001. The date this year is April 15 and will be held at Oasis Convention Center in Springfield. Tickets are $35, which includes a silent auction featuring designer wear, gift baskets, movie passes, tasty treats, and much more. There will also be a performance from the cast of Kickapoo High School’s theatre production of “Into the Woods.” Tickets can be purchased from Foundation for Springfield Public Schools, 1331 Boonville, 65802. Maybe I’ll see you there!

This year I’ll have the pleasure of sitting at the table with teachers and staff from David Harrison Elementary School and rooting for Harrison art teacher Kevin Zimmerman, one of the five finalists for Teacher of the Year. If he wins, Kevin will be the second teacher from Harrison who has held that honor. The delightful teacher in the picture is Dawn Licata who teaches second grade at Harrison. She and her students made valuable contributions to 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR WRITING SUCCESS, the 2018 Scholastic book I co-wrote with Mary Jo Fresch. The picture was snapped at the 2016 banquet and I don’t recall why I was suddenly sporting a beard and long face, but it must have been fun!

The banquet has a life of its own now and is in the capable hands of others. These days I get to wear my special tie, which I’ve worn to every banquet since the beginning, and take quiet pleasure in watching teachers enjoying themselves on the evening set aside to honor them and remind the community of the vital role they play in our lives.