Suzanne Roberston keeps reminders all throughout her classroom of the life she might have led, had her mother not challenged her to go to college and leave the family dairy farm behind. "And I said why do I have to go, you didn't. And she said because I didn't have the opportunity. So I had no choice, so I go. So what happens? I end up teaching for decades in a job I absolutely love."
Now, Robertson makes it her mission to help students strengthen their own family trees. She does that through reading. 3rd Grader Connor Brown says "when we come in we read for ten minutes and then she gives us activities to do."
Robertson's students read one-million words each school year, as a means to increase their vocabulary. She says if students will read just 20-minutes a day, they will be exposed to 15,000 to 20,000 new words they've never seen, before graduation. "Because their vocabulary has become quite extensive and they win money for scholarships then they're going to have opportunities that might not have been available for them to begin with."
She doesn't assign what students read, choosing instead to let her class delve into whatever they want… even comic books. "So if I told them at the beginning of the year that yes, I've going to be your gifted reading teacher and your going to read 40 to 60 books. You'd never enter my doorway. But if I say read what you want for 20 minutes, they go far past me," says Robertson. 3rd Grader Kelsey Spires says "I know I've read a million, I just don't know how many."
Robertson also makes reading fun through classroom games, like "Stump the 3rd Grader." She says if her students develop a love of reading, she's done her job.