Just back from a quick trip to Naperville Illinois – a town a bit south of Chicago and voted as the second best place to live in the United States in 2006 by Money Magazine.
I don’t know which city beat out Naperville – but I can see why it placed so high. Their old downtown section was quite pleasant as well as the home of Anderson’s Books. I have purchased quite a few of my literacy minded t-shirts (read or die, fictional character, zombies
are were people too) from Andersons at various conferences over the years and having an opportunity to visit the mother ship was one that neither Sara nor I could pass up.
Of course we didn’t drive six hours just to visit an amazing independent book store – we were visiting one of the junior highs in the city. Well actually we visited TWO of the junior highs since we went to the wrong school first. We were asked to Jefferson Junior High by stellar English and Science teacher Holly Bontkowski - but someone in our travelling contingent decided we should go to Lincoln Junior High – now I’m not naming names but it wasn’t me, or either of our dogs who came along with me and Sara on this trip. Do the math.
Bontkowski – doesn’t that name just conjure up visions of a black and white photograph of a football player wearing leather helmet all gap toothed smiling with a cut above his eye bleeding down his cheek? Now Holly may not have looked like that cleated tough as tanned leather interior lineman – but she certainly is digging in her spiked heeled boots in the trenches of the education world. We found her to be a kindred spirit.
Luckily we were running early enough to still make it to the correct school just in time – we literally walked into the first classroom and immediately started teaching. The lessons went extremely well – mostly due to Holly’s hard work making sure all the kids were prepped and ready to work. Even combining a couple classes (which sometimes can be too much of a distraction for young writers) didn’t put a damper on the learning.
Other than enthusiastic teachers and students I also discovered the motivational powers of donuts as instigation to get volunteers to share their work out loud with their classmates.
So – thanks to seasonally appropriate monikered Holly and all her crew who gave Sara and me an early holiday gift of a great school visit in the second best place in the United States!