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2011 Educator of the Year – Katy Schrum

Paradise Elementary, Paradise, CA

Learning is such an adventure, and the key to engaging children is to make the learning process magical. This starts before the first day of school in my 2nd and 3rd grade Magic Tree House Classroom! Children receive a letter from Jack and Annie, inviting them to come along for a year of exciting adventures. Awaiting them, on the first day, is a survival kit which includes a special new pencil, a snack, a water bottle, and of course a doodle notebook for taking down all kinds of important information. One hour into our first day, the secretaries call down to our room telling us that a package has just arrived from a boy and girl. Clues lead us to discover dizzy pills, an important item that must be taken before each adventure begins so that we do not get too dizzy while the tree house spins us to another land.

The Magic Tree House series not only inspires me to be a better teacher, but it inspires my students to be brave like Annie. We tackle our first “chapter book” together, and slowly gain confidence in our reading ability. Dinosaurs Before Dark, our first adventure, leads us to invent our new dinosaur, we are rookie paleontologists, and we visit a local rock shop to learn more about life long ago. Dinosaur dung is made and a nutrition lesson is formed!

Some of my favorite activities enjoyed so far have been the making of mummy dogs, mummy wrap P.E., our pirate party including Stinky’s Tattoo Parlor, and Captain Bones’s Booty Store, Catapult P.E. with an attack on the castle, and the fact finding by using the research guides. Using the real historical facts have led us to write funny, creative weekend news stories. “My weekend as a pirate was ______.” “My weekend as a princess/prince was ______.”

Map skills, research projects, nutrition lessons, P.E. activities, art projects, spelling challenge lists from key vocabulary, science lessons . . . there is just no limit to what you can do with this wonderful series. Once I start reading one of the books, the creative energy just comes to life and I can’t stop! There are endless possibilities to make learning fun and exciting using this series.

My goal as a teacher is to make coming to school and learning so irresistible that nothing seems too hard or impossible. Jack’s commitment to learning and Annie’s fearlessness is something we talk about a lot in our room. “You must believe to achieve” is what we say in our Magic Tree House room. We are all believers in the magic of books in our classroom, and Mary Pope Osborne is one we thank for inspiring us to learn. Thank you for inspiring me to create an exciting classroom for my students.