You may recognize International Reading Association (IRA) member Shanne Bowie from the February/March issue of “Reading Today” in which she and Gerri Settoon wrote a lovely piece welcoming colleagues to Louisiana for the IRA Annual Conference in May. Bowie is the current President of the Louisiana Reading Association and a longtime elementary school teacher. In this “Reading Today” interview, she shares her inspirations, proudest moments, and what refreshes and renews her spirit.
When did you know you wanted to become a teacher?
I wanted to become a teacher in Kindergarten when Mrs. Frasier read to me while I sat on her lap. Later in high school, I wanted to become a teacher because I thought they got summer vacations. My first year to teach, I knew I wanted to become a teacher when my sixth grade student didn't want to leave my room on the last day, and she tearfully said, "No one will ever care about me like you." I knew then, I wanted to become a teacher.
Did any children's literature influence your decision to become a literacy educator?
I loved Hans Christian Anderson's tales as a very young child. I would make up my own tales to tell my sister. Later, I was fascinated by Caddie Woodlawn, a story of a frontier girl. I loved it because she was a tomboy just like me. I promised myself when I became a teacher, I would read Caddie Woodlawn every year, and I have done so for the last 28 years.
How did you begin your career, and what led you to your current position?
I began my career in a sixth grade classroom, but my heart was really in the lower grades where I have spent most of my time as an educator. I came to my current position the year after I completed National Board certification. My school is known for its literacy emphasis and deep commitment to helping children learn to read and write well. I knew it was the place for me.
What can literacy educators do to motivate kids to want to read?
I believe the most important way to motivate kids to read is by modeling reading. Show them reading is fun by reading books you love to them. When children see a teacher's love for the written word it opens a door to a world of which every child can be a part. The teacher can then get down to the basics of what the child needs to be able to read a good book with fluency.
Which professional development books have you found influential in your education?
I come home from an IRA conference with several new reads. Staying abreast of best practices, latest research, and cutting-edge techniques is key to continued professional development for me. “The CAFE Book: Engaging All Students in Daily Literacy Assessment and Instruction” by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser validated for me a teaching style I already used, but they modeled a way to organize the literacy block that was easily implemented. Their techniques really release the power of personal reading growth to the students. I recently read “Text Complexity: Raising Rigor in Reading” by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Diane Lapp in a professional book study. The authors focus on instruction and assessment of complex texts through close readings and complex discussions. I'm currently reading “Notice and Note” by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst. IRA's website has a wonderful resources section with recommended reads.
How long have you been a member of the International Reading Association?
10 years. I learned about IRA from another teacher. She encouraged me to join. After I attended my first conference, I was hooked.
How has membership influenced your career?
The professional growth experiences I have received through my IRA membership are without measure. I have never attended a conference that I didn't return with techniques to implement, professional and children's books to read, new professional contacts, and a renewed commitment to my profession. IRA's website has a wealth of resources to access daily. Check it out!
What are you looking forward to doing at the Annual Conference in New Orleans?
I am looking forward to networking with other professionals and hearing the "rock stars" of education that IRA always provides at conferences. I know I will leave New Orleans motivated and energized to teach children at my school. I won't forget to enjoy some delicious food and culture of the historic city of New Orleans either.
What do you consider to be your proudest career moment?
The day I became a National Board teacher was pretty up there, but my proudest moment in my career so far was when I was a new teacher and Clinton, a struggling reader, read fluently for the first time. He smiled, and I cried.
What do you like to do when you're not wearing your educator hat?
When I'm not wearing my educator hat, I travel quite a bit. I recently went to a bookstore in Lyon, France. I quickly had to find the English section. I also read and write for fun!
What's the best advice you could offer someone new to the profession?
I would advise new teachers to find a professional teacher/mentor who is devoted to children. I would encourage them to attend professional conferences like the International Reading Association conference. They should be a part of their local reading council, too. I would invite new teachers to read professional books. Finally, I would tell them to allow relaxation time to refresh and renew their spirit, so they can return to school energized and ready to teach children to read and write well.
Sara Long is an editor/content manager at the International Reading Association.