By Eric Coleman, Communications Manager
Sean Eichenser is an eighth Grade ELA teacher at Smyser Elementary School and a recipient of the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award (RLTA). Speaking to his experience as an awardee, Sean said, “WITS and RLTA fundamentally changed how I created and set-up my classroom library, as well as [how I] conducted my reading instruction. Building that community as [a member of] a RLTA Study Group in my school was huge in my first year of teaching.” Sean recently led a RLTA Summer Institute workshop on the Google office suite titled: G Suite in the Writer’s Workshop.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career as an educator?
I come from a long line of educators. I got started when I was a junior in high school tutoring in my mother’s sixth grade classroom. My mom is great with numbers, but she has never been a fan of teaching writing. I would come over on my off periods and help her students with their writing assignments. Seeing that “lightbulb moment” in her students was huge for me. In the moments where it would just “click” for them and they’d take off writing and reading; I knew that pursuing education was what I wanted to do.
What was the focus of your RLTA workshop: G Suite in the Writer’s Workshop?
The focus of my RLTA workshop was bringing the writing workshop model into the 21st century. The workshop guided participants through enhancing the tried-and-true writing process by integrating Google tools at each stage, from pre-planning to publishing.
What is a takeaway (or takeaways) from your RLTA workshop that you would like to share with educators who were unable to attend?
The educators in RLTA sessions are Chicago Public Schools (CPS) educators, and CPS is one of the largest G Suite institutions in the nation. Leveraging tools like Google Docs, Google Keep, Google Forms allows teachers to give students more authentic experiences, as well as, timelier, and therefore more useful, feedback. By using the tools available, teachers can fundamentally change how instruction is given and how students show mastery.
Why do you feel it is important to develop students’ passion for reading?
Stephen King says in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” Reading and writing are inextricably linked. If we expect students to become better, more nuanced, and polished writers and communicators, we must prioritize setting time for students to read and learn from text. I was not born knowing the word “inextricably,” I read it in an article and looked it up. Reading is an act that broadens horizons for our students, plain and simple.
What is one book that you would recommend to others?
To middle school students: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
To high school students: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
To teachers: Standards-Based Learning in Action by Tom Schimmer, Garnet Hillman & Mandy Stalets