For the Love of Reading
Instilling a love of reading is not always an easy job, but Jennifer Gordon seems to have cracked the code to make it happen. Her educational journey started 19 years ago when she accepted the role of librarian at the Benjamin Banneker Charter School in Cambridge.
Known for her enthusiasm to promote literacy in her students, Jennifer is known to run laps around her classroom when her students find a book they love. Gordon describes her journey in education as an evolution, with each year getting better. “You learn what works and what doesn’t work,” states Gordon, who likes to change things up, adapt, and incorporate new ideas into her library program. “I get so inspired by the other teachers whom I work with and follow on social media,” she said.
An avid reader and lover of children’s books, Jennifer grew to love reading as a young child. “My main goal is always to have students leave my room loving books and reading. If I can get the quiet kid in the corner who likes to pretend he hates reading lean forward and gasp during a read aloud, I know I’m doing my job.” she said.
Students as Makers
More recently, Gordon has expanded student learning by developing a Makerspace model for her library classes. After trying out some activities at the end of a school year, she spent the summer planning lessons in preparation for the fall.. Her model incorporates different activities to keep things fresh for the students. Each Makerspace session includes six centers revolving around STEAMS (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, Mathematics and Social Studies) themes. Jennifer’s students also have choice activities that include brain teasers, smaller building materials, and art activities. “I think that Makerspace in the library, in addition to engineering blocks that happen in some other grades, give the students a safe space to try, develop grit, and be creative,” stated Jennifer. As an active participant in one of the personal learning communities (PLC) at her school, the Makerspace model helps to support her PLC’s focus on growth mindset for students. “I’ve been tracking the 6th graders and how they persevere while working through activities that have high grit levels,” she said. Gordon has observed that students for the most part are unafraid to try something new and stick with activities, even if they fail and must try again. “It’s definitely a work in progress. Every summer, I do more research on social media and online to find new activities and materials I’d like to try and then we plan again!”
Adventure Beyond the Classroom
Jennifer’s energy is boundless in creating learning experiences for her students. This energy transfers to outdoor activities through her involvement with her school’s Adventure Club. As a co-coordinator, she spends one Saturday a month on offsite trips that include hiking, camping, canoeing, indoor rock climbing, snow tubing, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing! There is also a special trip at the end of the school year where students are taken to a ropes course. “The trips always fill up, but not every trip is for every kid. Some kids might like to try hiking a mountain while others want to ride horses and meet animals while others want to canoe. It’s great to have a variety of options for them,” stated Jennifer.
An Educator on a Mission
Jennifer’s passion for her students’ well-being is clear to see. Her main goal is to instill a love for learning and reading in her students. “I want to do better for my kids and that keeps me going,” she said. Gordon even has a secondary library made up of her own books that she has acquired over the years. These are available so students have more books to choose from. This has created a place for them to explore different worlds and experience the absolute joy of a story. “I love that they can explore and create and build and read!” stated Gordon. “A mom recently emailed me to let me know that we found the magic book for her daughter – the one she finished, the one she loved, the one that made her want to read more!” Jennifer said with delight.
Gordon developed her love of books at a young age, reflecting some of her favorite childhood memories were being read to and reading books. Recalling her own shyness as a child, Jennifer has found ways to tap into activities with picture books and reading aloud with her own students. Her fourth grade read-aloud project is just one example of Gordon’s prowess in creating authentic learning experiences for her students. Through the use of video, students are able to observe their own read aloud style and provide peer feedback for improvement. Jennifer then uses the videos for the next year as exemplars for what read-alouds can be. “Throughout the project, my students work on skills such as projecting their voice, collaboration and the correct way to give feedback,” she stated.
Her Secret to Success
Jennifer would like to tell others not to be afraid to try something new! “Trying something new doesn’t necessarily mean just working on a new project. It could also mean collaborating with someone you haven’t in the past, reaching out to an online community asking for help, or bringing something new to old ideas,” said Jennifer. “We want our students to develop the ability to try something new…we should too!”
MassCUE is proud to recognize Jennifer as our February Featured Educator. Congratulations on a job well-done!
Jennifer Gordon is the school librarian at the Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School in Cambridge, MA where she shares awesome books and awesome adventures with both her students and staff. When she’s not teaching at the Banneker, Jennifer enjoys reading (obviously), board games, and all things Harry Potter. She is a 2018 recipient of the Milken Educator Award. You can find her on twitter @missjennifergee.Print this post