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When I first began teaching, I was the smartest kid in the class. I had the quickest answers, the most accurate quotations, the brightest comments. I was used to individual achievement, high grades, praise, and it was hard not to continue my role as shining student.

But when I began teaching, I soon realized that my focus could no longer be me—it had to be them. I had to learn that my understanding, my knowledge was not the issue—it was theirs.  I had to be patient with my students, interested in the shy ones, careful not to let the bold ones—like me—dominate. I learned to question, not answer; listen, not talk; set up a learning situation, not demonstrate my own mastery.

I had to grow up in the classroom, and I became not only an adult, but also a teacher.

Leila Christenbury
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond
31 years of teaching


Leila was awarded the Distinguished Service Award in 2008!  Congratulations Leila!

Related Resources..

Writing on Demand: Best Practices and Strategies for Success
Author(s): Leila Christenbury, Anne Ruggles Gere, Kelly Sassi

Research and experience show that writers need three things: ownership of the form and subject of their writing; feedback from other writers; and time to draft and revise. Yet the harsh and confusing reality of today's college-entrance and state-mandated examinations—or any test with an essay component—is that students, trained in writing workshops, go on the clock to compose a paper on an assigned topic, in a prescribed form, for which they will receive no feedback.

Both Art and Craft: Teaching Ideas That Spark Learning

Author(s): Diana Mitchell, Leila Christenbury


This lively, readable text offers countless practical ideas and activities for the middle school or secondary school classroom teacher in the areas of literature, reading, writing, and thematic units.






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Most Recent Comments (1 Total Posts)

Posted By: Anonymous User on 1/27/2009 3:52:42 AM

Dear Leila , I am a teacher from Iraq .I read your story which effected me and I hope to learn more from your experience . Your focus on your students is somthing I respect highly. Thank you.

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