Saturday, August 28, 2010

Colorful Language

August 28th, 2010
I just finished a great book, that was recommended by a new colleague at MBA. I was told it makes a great read aloud, and was not disappointed. Here's a sample of Wendelin Van Draanen's fabulous SWEAR TO HOWDY. "For a second Sissy looked like a possum,
lit up in the road..." and this great image of his father..."I saw him [dad] sitting on my bed, arms crossed, face scrunched together
like an angry cloud." And finally one of my favorite, "Then he got up on his knees, leaned over the rock, and puked his purple guts out. "There's nothing like learning of a great read, that will take your breath away, and leave you wanting more.
Happy reading!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


August 25th, 2010

Tomorrow I will give my Teacher of the Year acceptance speech, one that I have been writing...and revising for well over a month. The thought of giving this speech before my colleagues has made for a few restless nights. For those of you who are interested,
and could not attend...I was informed that the speech will be on a new video television show that is being created by Peter Stone. The focus of the speech centers around a poem by Canadian song writer and poet Leonard Cohen;
"Ring the bells that still can ring...
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything...
That's how the light gets in."
Being nominated, and named Somers Teacher of the Year, has been a great honor. Of course, one does not accomplish anything within a school setting by themselves. I'd like to thank Principals Riola and Oliver,my friend Pat Clark, who has been a tremendous inspiration while at SES.I believe this award must be shared with my fourth grade team; Carolyn, Lisa, Alicia, Kristen, and Mike. Without your help and support has been appreciated. I'd also like to thank the Somers Education Foundation, Gail DeBortoli's family for their unending desire to keep their daughter's memory alive, and our Parent Teacher Organization...and all the work they do to make great things happen throughout the school year. Working at Somers Elementary School has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my adult life, and I will miss the many friends I have made over the years.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Place to Call Home

August 23rd, 2010
"This is the beginning of a new day..." After eight years teaching third and fourth graders, I have accepted
the opportunity and challenge of working with sixth graders. The change is bittersweet, having to uproot and
leave many friends and colleagues that I have grown so fondly of over the years. I look forward to watching
and hearing of the many interesting activities that take place at the elementary school, and know that Mr.
Mike McDonnell will do an incredible job in 4th grade....where both the students and faculty are so lucky
to have him back in the classroom!

As for 6th grade, and Mabelle B. Avery Middle School, I look forward to helping students make connections with
world literature and understand that good writing is a process that takes time and dedication. My ultimate goal
is to create an atmosphere filled with enthusiasm for Language Arts, one that will hopefully develop life-
long learners and readers. I think sixth grade is a wonderful grade to teach, a year where students
have entered the half-way mark between Kindergarden and 12th grade. With some of the most
difficult years ahead of them academically, I believe sixth grade is where students need to
understand how they learn best, and rid themselves of poor habits.

See you in the classroom.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Newbery Honor Author

Newbery Honor Award Author, Ingrid Law will be at Somers Elementary School, Somers, Connecticut March 29th and 30th. On Monday, Ingrid will present to the fifth and third grades, along with having a luncheon with aspiring writers. After school, the author of SAVVY and future SCUMBLE will speak with teachers and staff on the topic of "Word Choice..." On Tuesday, Ingrid will give two assemblies, the first to sixth grade and a final one to fourth. She will also enjoy another luncheon with students who have a passion for writing. Tuesday night will conclude with a book-signing beginning at 6:15 in the media center, followed by a talk open to the public in the SES Auditorium at 7:00 P.M.. New, or gently used books will be collected at the door, and will be donated to our Somers Public Library "book sale", and to Readers to Readers, a non profit group that distributes books to needy inner-city and rural communities across the United States.
More information regarding Ingrid's visit and presentations can be addressed to Mr. Maciolek,
Fourth Grade Teacher at SES ( or to Pat Clark, Media Specialist, SES (

Friday, March 5, 2010

Passion for Reading

Author Ingrid Law shared this video on her Straight From The Jar blog. I've posted it on my school website and shared it with our fourth grade students as well. I can't believe how much fun it has created and how contagious the message is. Yesterday, at the end of the day, I managed to end with playing the video right before busses were called. It really promotes a strong sense of community. Each month fourth grade students participate in a "Reading Challenge," however, the ultimate challenge, as we all know, is for students to continue to read on their own. I hope you enjoy the fine work of these students, and by the way... don't be afraid to turn it up!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Getting Caught Reading...

One of our teachers at Somers Elementary School encouraged fellow colleagues to "get caught reading..." as part of our Read Across America celebration. My fondest memories of reading as a child were the hours I spent snuggling beside my mom on the couch. My poor mother did everything she could, being the passionate reader and librarian of 35 years, to encourage me to stay focused on a book. I, however, would not be tempted until the joy and fruits of her labor finally hit me decades later. Looking back, I'm sure my teachers told her that I was a struggling reader...a child who was just as content to be running around outside with my friends after school...then sitting with a book. Now, as a fourth grade teacher, the tables have turned. The question and challenge continues; "How do we encourage and foster an interest in reading for young adults?" After working with 8-12 year olds for the past several years, I believe it all starts with enthusiasm. I believe we need to share our love for the written word with sincere, and heartfelt passion. Share passages from your favorite books, and talk about them as if they are characters that live in your neighborhood. Your enthusiasm will be contagious and your seeds will, like my mom's, someday bear fruit.
What am I reading now? A few children's books that are beautifully illustrated, JANUARY'S SPARROW, by Patricia Palacco...14 COWS FOR AMERICA, by Cameren Agra Deedy, Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. Also a few that I've managed to dip in an out of each evening; MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE, by Norm Abram, A LONG WAY GONE, by Ishmael Beah, THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, by Sue Monk Kidd, and TRUE COMPASS, a memoir by Edward Kennedy, and finally Nathaniel Philbrick's MAYFLOWER.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Used Books... Bring Back Old Memories

I made my yearly pilgrimage to the Mansfield Public Library in Storrs yesterday. Just off the University of Connecticut's campus, the Friends of the Mansfield Library create quite the buzz around southern New England with their semi-annual used book sale. I was fortunate to arrive early and keen enough to realize volunteers were handing out tickets; and at number 26, I was optimistic that I could land a handful of classics and perhaps locate a few recently released best selling novels. However, by the time the doors opened at 9:00 A.M., I was no match for the "Amazon-hounds" that poured through the door, bar-code readers in hand, grabbing anything and everything.
I'm all for the free-market and capitalism, but the last thing I wanted was to jostle for position to buy a used copy of The Secret Life of Bees.

One bright spot, however, was when I overheard a conversation at the breakfast counter, set with blueberry muffins, friendship breads, and your choice of either "Starbuck's coffee" (I'm a Hills Brothers man myself). Even though I had never met the gentleman, I knew I had a connection. Second box of books in hand, I stumbled over to the card table where the two cashiers sat, bundled in quilts near the exit. The man stood just over six feet and with his southern accent and hometown wit, worked the crowd like an auctioneer. "Your first name wouldn't be Sam?" I asked." And before he could answer, a man beside him assured me he was Sam. "Sam Pickering?" I followed up, hoping I hadn't just met any ole Sam.
I went on to introduce myself, and without pause Mr. Pickering said, "thee Mark Maciolek that Francelia Butler always talked about? Francelia spoke very highly of you."

Sam, you made my day... bringing back memories of a dear friend, Dr. Francelia Butler.
(Dr. Butler, above, is shown in this 1985 photo with Walter Cronkite.) You will never know how much those words "she spoke very highly of you..."meant to me yesterday, for 12 years have gone by since her passing. Like Francelia and Sam, I too teach... often swimming up stream. Over the years I realized Francelia had never learned I went back to get my teacher certification, and that she was the inspiration for so many things that I have accomplished.

Sam, you not only brought back fond memories, but lessons learned years ago, that I need to be reminded of now. Thank you.... and by the way, that used book I had bought of yours...the one I couldn't remember... {AUTUMN SPRING}... I love it.