Marsha Page taught first grade at Vandenboom Elementary School in the Marquette Area Public Schools for many years. While at Vandenboom, Marsha proved to be an innovative teacher of reading, writing, and other core subjects. Marsha provided a balanced approach to her first graders that helped them emerge into literacy with strong decoding skills and comprehension strategies. She integrated reading and writing into each subject to provide students authentic purposes and motivation to become literate. She provided opportunities for students to share their literacy skills through sharing their own texts within the classroom and in venues such as Young Authors. She maintained portfolios in which students could see their own progress as readers and writers and taught them to articulate their strengths and areas for growth to their parents. She provided unlimited opportunities for students to read about social studies and science topics and to write in learning logs, journals, and non-fiction texts about their learning. Marsha put the pieces of the literacy puzzle together with creative projects that integrated the fine arts into her reading program as well.
During Marsha’s years at Vandenboom, she also became a leader in the area of science inquiry and modeled how using inquiry within content area units is enhanced as students read a variety of non-fiction materials and write in science journals and research reports. Marsha took part in a year-long study of teaching through inquiry approaches that included a partnership with Northern Michigan University and Vandenboom Elementary. While she participated in this partnership, Marsha shared her learning and her teaching with university students and with other educators at an international conference.
Marsha also did an inquiry study of her own as part of her work with the Upper Peninsula Writing Project in which she studied the original materials of author Jane Yolen. As a result of this study, Marsha wrote a chapter for a book manuscript and presented her findings at a national conference of the National Writing Project. In addition, she led a school wide unit that involved all students and teachers at Vandenboom in a literature focus unit integrating literacy and content areas.
In the fall of 2007, Marsha moved to Sandy Knoll Elementary School, in the MAPS district, to teach second grade. Although the decision to leave first grade was difficult, Marsha was interested in learning more about literacy development for students beyond first grade. Over the last two years, Marsha has opened her classroom to my university students and me on a regular basis. Walking into her room brings a feeling of peace, calmness, and eagerness to learn. The second graders absolutely beam as they move about the room reading, talking with each other about their reading and writing, and composing texts that are outstanding examples of the level of thought and writing young children can achieve. Marsha’s huge collection of children’s literature fills the room, and students are constantly returning to the books to find information, to study the writer’s craft, and to expand their own ideas for writing. Reading and writing are truly seamless in her room. How lucky we are to have teachers like Marsha as models for future teachers!
Marsha is a leader in the region and the state in the area of reading and writing. She authored a chapter in a book about literacy, Writing Intentions, published jointly by the Michigan Reading Association and the National Writing Projects of Michigan. This book is now used as a text for a graduate course on writing at Northern Michigan University. Marsha recently co-taught a book study of Georgia Heard’s book, Awakening the Heart, for MARC and the UPWP. Feedback from the teachers in this group has been inspiring.
Currently, Marsha is co-chairing the Upper Peninsula Reading Association Conference for 2009. In this role she has multiple responsibilities for planning, organizing, and overseeing the work of others. Her energies and talents promise another successful conference this year. Marsha is also a member of the
Upper Peninsula Writing Project’s Leadership Team. The UPWP is a site of the National Writing Project that seeks to guide teachers in finding their own strengths and talents while expanding those strengths and talents within a supportive network.
Written by Suzanne Standerford