In part 1 of our Q&A with Gretchen Owocki, she told us how her best-selling resources support best-practice CCSS instruction. Today, we ask her about some influences on her work and the impact they have on her writing.
Your daughter is about to enter the middle grades. How has your experience with her learning influenced how you approached your K–5 and now 6–8 resources?
The school experiences Emilia finds enlightening and gratifying are pretty predictable. She enjoys group projects, working through tough challenges, simulations that involve taking on roles or personas (such as historian or mathematician), good reading, and writing that means something. Watching her as a learner has underlined for me how important it is for teachers to create contexts in which students can do what kids want to do naturally. They want to learn by doing; they want to interact with others; they want to be able to make choices; and they still want to play, even as they get older. In all of my writing I try to support teachers in creating such contexts.
As a parent, an educator, and a Heinemann author, what is your hope for education?
High expectations for all learners
Students who are active and challenged
Teachers who enjoy teaching as an intellectual pursuit
You’ve been a mentor to a great number of teachers throughout your career. Who were your education mentors?
The mentors that stand out most are those who helped me understand the intricacies of building the teaching around the learner. John Dewey wrote that the task of the teacher is “to keep alive the sacred spark of wonder and to fan the flame that already grows.” I am drawn to scholars who work and write from this perspective. From way back: Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. From more recent years: Emilia Ferreiro, Marie Clay, Ann Dyson, Gordon Wells, Vivian Paley, Jerome Harste, Donald Graves, and Luis Moll. Working in graduate school with Yetta Goodman, Kenneth Goodman, Richard Ruiz, and Denny Taylor had a powerful impact. They helped me shape my understanding so that I could begin to share my ideas with other educators.