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2010 Educator of the Year – Becci Curry

Sugarmill Elementary School in St. Marys, Georgia

When a line bends, a shape begins. If that shape is a letter of our alphabet, we recognize it represents a specific sound. When letter sounds are blended together, they form the words of our language. Words strung together make sentences, related sentences comprise paragraphs, and paragraphs tell stories. It’s like magic!

Most children begin understanding and applying this complicated, abstract process we call “reading” before they learn to tie their own shoes! I believe the incentive for this miraculous achievement lies in the magical adventures, fascinating facts, and heartwarming stories that only books can offer. The Magic Tree House series exemplifies this idea. Each book, with its captivating text and creative illustrations, takes my students into a time in our history (or future!), or a place in our world that both captivates and educates them.

The Magic Tree House series is a vital part of my early elementary gifted resource classroom. With my very youngest non-readers, we sit in our own classroom “Magic Tree House” and read aloud the adventures of Annie and Jack. The topics, such as dinosaurs, pirates, and outer space, keep my students engrossed in the stories. The discussions that we have before, during, and after reading, aid these students with reading readiness, writing, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.

My early readers love the stories! After I introduce them to the world of Magic Tree House books with a read-aloud in our classroom tree house, we visit the Random House website where the students can join the Magic Tree House Readers and Writers Club, print out their passports, and begin their journeys. My students enjoy the challenging activities, such as “Time Slider” and “Battle the Blizzard,” on this website.

I offer these students a chance to win a sleepover in the “Magic Tree House” each semester. They must read as many Magic Tree House books as possible, complete the quizzes on the Random House website and earn the passport stickers. The two students in each grade level with most passport stickers have the opportunity to stay over on a Friday night and camp out in the classroom tree house. The evening is filled with pizza, popcorn, games – and of course a Magic Tree House read-aloud.

The 3rd and 4th graders have a little more of a challenge ’ which they love! These students must also complete a passport, but then they are required to read the accompanying Research Guide and create a product of their choice (example: a diorama, informative poster, crossword puzzle, board game, travelogue, or learning center task) that demonstrates new knowledge in the topic area. These products are shared with classmates in a jigsaw learning fashion. This facet allows the students to experience pride amongst their peers with publication, as well as providing a great advertisement for that particular subject.

Jack, Annie, and their Magic Tree House have provided a multitude of incentives for my students to read, write, listen, research, and communicate about the magic world around them. We love them!