Teaching & Classroom

How I Teach: When the space shuttle exploded, she watched her teachers

Welcome to the April edition of How I Teach!

Today, you’re going to meet a Colorado English teacher named Erica Rewey. She was in third grade when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded while she and her classmates watched live. It was the teachers at her school who guided students through the grief that followed — and cemented Rewey’s plans to become a teacher herself.

Rewey now describes herself as an educator who never, ever gives up on students.

When one boy in her class let his grades and attendance slip, a phone call home revealed a mom reconciled to her son’s failure. Rewey refused to subscribe to that view.

“I am the teacher, I am the adult in this situation,” she said. “And he has the right to a public education, Monday through Friday. Even if he only shows up on Tuesday.”

Read on to learn how Rewey teaches a novel set in Afghanistan and why she sometimes has to “walk around the trash can.”

— Ann

In their own words.

CAROLYN GARCIA, middle school math, Newark
During her freshman year in college, Garcia realized high school hadn’t prepared her for the work. That revelation helped fuel her decision to become the teacher she’d needed but never had as a student.

ERICA REWEY, high school English, Colorado Springs, Colorado
From third grade on, Rewey took notes on how some teachers nurtured students and others made them feel small. She vowed to be the kind of teacher who helped students realize their potential.

MARLA WILLIAMS, special education, Detroit
Since many of her students have never gone on vacation, she helped them plan a hypothetical trip to Disneyland. They learned about booking hotels, planning activities, and raising funds — then had a mystery guest join them for lunch.

ELIZA LOEHR, high school culinary arts, New York City
To set up her students for successful internships in the food industry, Loehr covers a wide array of topics, from personal finance to what her students call “that p-word” — professionalism.

Other stories you might have missed.

WE ASKED, THEY ANSWERED Some Colorado educators say a proposed bill limiting early childhood suspensions could prompt them to leave teaching. Others say it’s high time for such legislation. More

BY TEACHERS, FOR TEACHERS At EdCamp Newark, part of a long-running conference series aimed at teachers, sessions are crafted and led by teachers, not administrators or paid consultants. More

SCHOOL SECURITY A controversial proposal to let Tennessee teachers carry concealed weapons in school has been dropped from this legislative session, but the bill’s sponsor said he may resurrect the idea next year. More

SECRET AGENTS A North Carolina teacher didn’t see much effect from teaching students about character through skits and role-playing. So, he turned his students into “undercover agents of kindness.” More

RALLY FOR PAY On one of the last days of Indiana’s legislative session, hundreds of education advocates rallied at the Statehouse to push for more education funding. More

HELPING OR HURTING At a moment when teacher causes are ascendant politically, two new studies paint a divergent picture of whether teachers unions contribute to better schools. More

LOOMING STRIKE? At five small Chicago school networks, teachers voted earlier this month voted to authorize a strike if needed, banding together to boost their bargaining power. More


The Testing Charade” by Daniel Koretz. Recommended by Barbara Gottschalk, retired elementary teacher, Warren Consolidated Schools, Michigan. “In the wake of cheating scandals, etc. the author is being quoted in the press. Professor Koretz made good points about what’s wrong with so many assessments.”

The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive” by W. Thomas Boyce, M.D. Recommended by Tait Jensen, high school government and economics teacher, Memphis, Tennessee. This book is “a fantastic introduction to the effects of trauma and stress on child development. I urge anyone who works in school environments — particularly those that pose a greater challenge — and cares greatly for their students to read Boyce’s work.”

Johns Hopkins Science of Learning Institute’s list of resources for educators Recommended by Melinda Hirschmann, former special education reading interventionist, currently teaching at Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia at Middle Tennessee State University. “Teachers are professionals, and we must plan instruction and respond to student progress, or lack thereof, based on knowledge derived from scientific research about the brain and how students learn. This list is a great resource for educators across all grades and content areas.”

Do you have a reading recommendation for other educators? Let me know what it is and why you liked it, and I may feature your suggestion in a future newsletter. Just send me an email at [email protected] or fill out this short form.

(Photo: Carolyn Garcia)