Chappels_009.JPG Carole Turner is known for her determination to instill in her students a love for learning by developing the confidence and will to succeed as readers and writers, even the most reluctant writers. How did she accomplish that? “It is important to begin the year with the end in mind, she commented. What do I want my students to know and be able to do? Then have students read and build up background knowledge and writing experiences that tie into each succeeding unit.”

Much of Carole’s success with making the curriculum relevant and meaningful to students’ learning involved reading and writing about authentic issues and topics that her middle school students could relate to. Four big units were developed over the course of the year. In the fall her students learned about theme and writing for audience by creating Halloween books for their first through fourth grade learning buddies. One year they authored childrens' science books for Bell Memorial Hospital’s younger patients. Later when they read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, her students created a trial jury for T.J. Avery and the classroom became a courtroom. The Holocaust Memorial and Remembrance project never failed to involve every student in researching, writing, teaching and presenting their topic. At the end of the year after reading and discussing several memoirs, her students wrote, published and sold their memoirs. Every year Carole continually reflected upon every aspect of her teaching to create authentic literacy experiences that were relevant and purposeful. Her goal to motivate students to make meaningful connections between reading and writing succeeded largely because students wrote for real audiences, not the teacher.

Carole is a charter member of the UPWP. The 1996 Summer Institute was a catalyst for change. For her final reflection she wrote a letter to her students about herself and handed it out on the first day of school and asked them to write her back. She’s been writing to her students ever since. Carole believes in building strong relationships with middle school kids because they need a stabilizing force who accepts them despite their transient moods. She is known for her love of sports, particularly the Green Bay Packers, coaching girls cheerleading and assisting with girls’ basketball. However she is probably best known in the Ishpeming district for her recognized work with Joe Pelkola, another UPWP writing fellow. Together they developed an interdisciplinary Holocaust Memorial and Remembrance unit that won awards at the local, state and national levels for excellence in middle school teaching.

Carole is a master teacher, both of children and other teachers. In addition to being a classroom teacher, she worked with the MI Dept. of Education to develop teaching and learning standards for educators and the MEAP. She also trained UP teachers on the MEAP, worked with UPWP colleagues to define and write MI Language Arts benchmarks, and trained student teachers. Carole’s philosophy embodies what Shelley Harwayne wrote in Lifetime Guarantees: Toward Ambitious Literacy Leaning:

Classroom practice must be based on richly understood and deeply held beliefs about how children learn to read. In other words, what teachers say and do and how they engage children in reading acts must have theoretical underpinnings. Their practice is not based on a publisher’s set of teacher directions or a handbook filled with teaching tips, but on concepts they themselves have examined carefully. (2000, 207)

Carole would add those beliefs also apply to writing. She retired from the Ishpeming School District this past June after 20 years teaching primarily 7th grade language arts with a distinguished record: Ishpeming Teacher of the Year, UP Teacher of the Year, Marquette/Alger Reading Teacher of the Year, and runner-up for Michigan Teacher of the Year. Despite the accolades Carole remains profoundly personable and approachable. When the job is done “what you’re left is family, friends, and faith.”

December 2008 Spotlight by Ann Chappel