I was getting ready for a new day the other morning when three 8th grade girls marched into my room and announced they were there to make my day by getting books. 10 or 15 minutes later I had to ask them to leave because the high school teachers were arriving for morning prayer. They left with books in hand and smiles on their faces.

On a regular basis several of my freshmen browse the shelves after class. As Alex says, “I just need to look at all these beautiful books.” 

Friday morning Joey announced to me that he has finally become a reader. He’s already finished Night by Elie Wiesel, our current whole class read, and is nearly finished Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, “I’ve been reading in the morning; it’s a long car ride to school. I just had to find the right books. I’m a reader now.”

These are just a few of the reasons I love being an English teacher and why I feel a classroom library is important. Today I went to the Scholastic Book Warehouse Sale; an event I look forward to every year. I am grateful for a husband as obsessed with books as I am who helps me select great books for my classroom. Some of the books I got today we will read before they make their way into the hands of students. 




If every blog post I wrote in my head actually ended up here, I would be an incredibly prolific blogger! Unfortunately the great idea I hash out while I’m in the shower or driving to school is gone by the time I’m anywhere near my computer. The desire is there, but I’m not taking the time to sit down and pound it out. 

Teri Lesense (Professor Nana) has developed a great habit of writing mini blog posts. This is a great example for me. Instead of thinking, oh, I need to write out this idea, but writing takes time, and I have all this school work to do (my usual excuse) so I can’t right now, I need to write mini blog posts to get into the habit of blogging. 

Fortunately for me, WordPress has a wonderful mobile app. I really have no excuse for not throwing out nuggets as they come to mind. Quick Writes of blogging. 

This is Real Life

I was thinking today about being a connected educator. It’s always talked about as such a big, important thing, this being a connected educator. It means you’re in the know and at the forefront of educational trends. You are being influenced and influencing others professionally.

I consider myself a connected educator. I’m active on Facebook, not just sharing pictures of my cats and keeping in touch with family, but sharing blogs and articles about teaching, connecting with teachers and students, and following educational sites. I’m on Twitter (@nataleestotz) and Voxer. I blog (although not as consistently as I’d like).

But this week I was floored by the true meaning and value of being a connected educator.

Friday, July 3, my husband had a doctor’s appointment to follow up on the cough he’d been having. A cough we were all attributing to spring allergies. But he wasn’t feeling better, and our GP ordered chest x-rays. On his way home from having the x-ray, he got a call to return to the hospital for a CT; the x-ray showed a significant amount of fluid. They drained nearly 2 liters.

At Monday’s follow up to the ER visit, our GP referred us to a pulmonary specialist. Wednesday, July 8, while sitting with the pulmonologist, he got the final lab results from the fluid.

Stage IV.

That night we called our families and closest friends. We texted other friends, I emailed my colleagues. I notified my ELAFlip PLN and my RuralEdChat co-mods I wouldn’t be involved much for a while. I put a post on Facebook.  It wasn’t long before the love and support was pouring in from literally all over the world.

That’s what it means to be a connected educator. It’s not just about sharing great ideas for lesson plans or classroom management, about following big names in education or the publishing world. Even though many of these people I have only communicated with through Twitter, Voxer, or Facebook, we have built relationship. John and I are just overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of love and support we are getting.

Things are happening fast. He had surgery today. It went well. They drained more fluid, took tissue to biopsy, and sprayed surgical talc into his chest cavity to stop the pleura from continuing to weep. He is resting comfortably and is in good spirits.  Monday he is scheduled for a PET scan, and next week we get the results of these tests and hopefully find out what type of cancer, exactly where it is, and what our course of treatment will be.

We know it hasn’t fully sunk in; we haven’t fully grasped the depth or severity of the situation, but we have accepted it. This is what we have to face and the road we have to walk. We are walking it together, we are surrounded by a tremendous group of family and friends, both near and far, and most importantly, we are trusting in a loving God who is so much bigger than this ugly thing called cancer.

Just last week we heard YA author, Chris Crutcher speak at Boothbay Literacy retreat, and then read his autobiography, King of the Mild Frontier. He spoke about some of the horrible things he has seen as a child psychologist, things that often work their way into his books. He brought up the question that people so often ask, why do bad things happen to good people (or good things to bad people!). The conclusion he has come to is this: take out the adjectives and ask the question again. Why do things happen to people? They just do.

We’re not asking why. It’s happening. We’re asking how are we going to walk through this. We know the answer: head held high, side by side with each other, our loved ones, and our faith.     

Boothbay Literacy Retreat 2015 Reflections

It almost seems like a dream, except I have a stack of books, 33 pages of notes and writing, several photos, and a head full of ideas for teaching to convince myself that I really did spend 3 days in Boothbay at the 2015 Heinemann Boothbay Literacy Retreat.

By night we heard distinguished speakers Lester Laminack, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Chris Crutcher share their stories, their writing, and their passion for literacy. By day the retreat faculty (Kylene Beers, Bob Probst, Penny Kittle, Linda Rief, and Teri Lesesne) and the distinguished speakers gifted us with their experience, their wisdom, and their passion for literacy. (Oh, and Heinemann gifted us with books!)

A theme running through the week was “empowering kids”. This was introduced by Kylene as she led us through a brief history of literacy and how it has changed and then took us through an activity that helped us identify what issues are keeping our kids from accomplishing all that we want them to accomplish. The outcome of that activity revealed that many of us are focusing on the things we have no control over and Kylene encouraged us to focus on what we can control.



Lester Laminack picked up the idea of empowering kids as he shared his own experience in beginning literacy and bridged into the importance of reading aloud and letting people just sit with the story and live in it (close the book and shut up)! Of course, he read aloud to us! (Honestly, I would listen to Lester Laminack read a grocery list. The man is gifted!)


Every time I page through my notes, something else jumps out at me. I’m going to try to work through my notes and write about my experience and my learning in a somewhat organized manner. As I write about one thing, it brings to mind something else, and I wonder how to stitch it all together! There are the evening distinguished speakers, the morning writing sessions with Linda Rief, the strategies from Kylene and Bob, the collaborative project, the “speed dating”, the one on one conversations with Linda Rief and Chris Crutcher, and the books. This is an experience that will have a long-lasting impact on me as a writer, a reader, and a literacy teacher!

Let’s Get This Summer Started!

In just a little bit I will head over to my hometown to speak at a Ladies’ Retreat for a local church. My topic for my two session is “Authentic Faith”. This is something I’ve been doing quite a bit of study and thinking on, but not much writing on, at least not here on this blog which bares “Authentic Faith” as part of it’s tag line.

The retreat is Friday afternoon through Sunday morning. I’ll return home, repack my suitcase, and head to Boothbay Harbor for the Boothbay Literacy Retreat…an event that I am so excited to participate in! These two events are kicking off a summer of professional development for me. In July I fly to Seattle for ECET2. In August I attend a local ECET2 event in Waterville and then MooseCampPBE in Dexter.

Lots of learning and hopefully a lot more writing!

D.C. Trip Reflection by K.W.


On the high school trip to Washington D.C. , we saw some amazing things. We actually got to see the things we’ve been learning about in books since elementary school. We saw the Capitol Building, went to the Smithsonian’s, visited the Marine Corps Museum, went to the Lincoln Memorial and various other important places for our country. Being there was truly a great experience.

In the Capitol Building, we toured around and saw amazing architecture and saw where the senate used to meet. Also we got to see where many presidents and various other leaders from our country sat and made the decisions that built our country to what it is today. Another things we saw, was the famous artwork and statues of people and events happening in our nation’s history. Although our feet were sore, that didn’t take away from seeing all the historic pieces.

Also on our trip to our country’s Capital, we visited two of our country’s Smithsonians. The Natural History Museum and the American History Museum. These both were cool things to walk through and see and help understand our country and the things in it better. The artifacts and models of old animals that exist and used to exist were cool to see.

On the last day we were in Washington D.C. , we got to go through various simulations and see many different items that were included in many of the battles that were fought by our nation’s men and women. We also got to see the planes, tanks, and tons of rifles that were used and they still use. It gives you a different kind of respect for our war veterans.

Also on our final day in Washington D.C. , we visited the Lincoln Memorial. Even though this place was amazing to see after years of seeing it in movies like Night at the Museum, most of my time was spent taking selfies with Allison and Abe. But, he really is amazing to see in person like that.

Overall, it’s difficult to put into words the places we visited. The ones I mentioned were just a couple out of all the different places we go to go to and experience. Personally, I think hearing about the different monuments and buildings doesn’t justify how it is to actually go and see everything D.C. has to offer.

DC Reflection by T.H.

Washington DC was very fun. We went to a lot of historical places. Old places like Mount Vernon were really cool. I mostly enjoyed the old houses but I also liked a lot of the museums. This trip helped me more understand the history of the United States.  I also Learned that DC has some very outrageous prices. Even when we were not exploring museums, buildings, and memorials. The city in general was cool. Every building you could see was made out of stone. The Holocaust Museum was one that you can never forget; everything in that place had a story of its own.