This is one of my favorite pictures of all time.

As in … EVER.

As in … nothing will ever compare.

As in …. My goodness, Connie.  We miss you so…

In the photo – snapped at the 1st annual Reading Under the Stars literacy night at EES – Connie P, veteran 1st grade teacher and a legend in her own time, is reading to a group of kiddos in a classroom decorated by her team.

The little girl?  We don’t know who she was….  Probably the sibling or neighbor of a student.  But we don’t know.

All we know is that this precious girl was captured by literacy that night… swept up in the beauty of the read-aloud… the rhythm of words… the cadence of Connie’s voice… the magic.

The Magic.

It’s The Magic that Connie knew instinctively how to ignite.  

In her 30-someodd years in the classroom, Connie led countless children to The Magic of books, of words, of language…

She led them to literacy.  

Through practice and patience and sight word after sight word  (even when she had to sneak home the Build Up books because they were frowned upon by current educational practice).  But most of all, through love….

Love.

Love of books.  Love of language.  Love of poetry and structure. Love of her kids.

Most of all this:  Love. Of. Her. Kids.

Hers.

And the definition of Her Kids didn’t stop at her door or even at age 7.

Connie taught her class and pulled in struggling readers from across and/or down the hall.  She pulled in accelerated readers from Kinder and struggling kiddos from 2nd (& up). 

 If you needed to learn to read, she was your Gal.  

And what a Gal she was….

Because her touch reached farther still — to the classrooms and hearts of teachers on her team– especially those of us who were young and green when we came to 1st grade.

27 years ago, I was one of those.   It was 1990 and whole language was in full swing.  Connie shared with the 4 of us new to teaching and the team the secret of her success.  And it didn’t match what we’d been reading in college… so we smiled and nodded and cut out lily pad after lily pad after lily pad for thematic Frog and Toad vocabulary words.

But then we saw her results. 

Her kids had The Magic.  They got it!!  And we began to, too.

Oh, we didn’t give up the arts and crafts, but we did bridge them into words on our walls (Early Word Walls, anyone??) and onto rings of flashcards (Automaticity, anyone??)

And we learned.  

We learned because she Loved.

She guided with practice and patience … and may have accidentally slipped class sets of build-up readers into our boxes.

All this is not to say that sight word drill is The Answer.  But, when factored into the Love and Magic equation, it’s pretty dang powerful.

Connie touched the lives of all whom she taught.  Her students.   Our students.   Us.

To do the math would be staggering…  In addition to her 30+ years of students,   she mentored at least 2 dozen new teachers — some of whom are entering their 30th year in the classroom, others of whom are teaching teachers.   Or hiring teachers….That’s my job now.

She not only touched the future,  she changed it… 100% for the better.

Oh, Connie.  How we miss you… but we’re paying forward your gift every single day and hope we make you proud.

You, my beloved friend, touch the future. 

Then sings my soul….

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