For Teachers

Dear Teachers,

You are probably coming to this page because you are looking for information re: my books. If you go to the pages devoted to those books, you will find LOTS of resources for you to use including printable teacher’s guides, videos, and much more.

You will find Skype/visit information in the “Visits” section of this website.

I’ve included this page JUST to send you a message. Please see it below…


Dear Teachers,

It’s no secret that I’m a fan. (It’s not a coincidence that the teachers’ button on this website is a hero’s cape!) I was saved by a few teachers and I ended up writing a book entitled FISH IN A TREE that turned out to be a 288 page thank you note to my 6th grade teacher. He was quite a guy in many respects. He always saw the child before he saw the student. He turned me in to both a reader and a kid who stood up straight.

If you are the kind of teacher who is researching author sites, then I’m guessing you are one of those teachers, too. Perception changers. Life changers. World changers.

You are most definitely appreciated even though it doesn’t always feel that way. I taught for ten years. I know it isn’t an 8 to 3 job and it can be incredibly draining 24/7. When we are buried in meetings and paperwork and working hard to serve our kids, I think teachers sometimes forget the impact they can truly have. Sometimes we all get caught up in our to do lists and forget to look up. And see.

You have such opportunities. Your students are watching you. Listening to what you say. (Although some of them will go to great lengths to hide that.) Many kids out there are holding up adults in their lives as role models–as compasses to help them decide what directions to take their own lives in. I’ve met them. They are everywhere and they are often the kids who do not express it.

Please remember that although it is wonderful to receive notes and pictures from our students, it is often the students who can’t do that who really need you the most. Who knows!? Maybe one of those quiet kids will grow up to write a book about you.

I’ll leave you with this…I recently heard, “If you are married to a teacher, raise your glass. If you are not married to a teacher, raise your standards.”

With admiration,



Hello! Below is the story of Mr. Christy, my inspiration for Mr. Daniels in Fish in a Tree…

Dear Teachers,

Constantine Christy was my sixth grade teacher. He was unhappy to be turning fifty that year and I remember feeling sorry for the guy—being so old and all. (How perspectives change :-)

Now, having been a teacher myself for ten years, I further understand what a phenomenal teacher he really was. He would often pull kids into the adjoining room for short chats—and I was the recipient of many. He knew when to be serious and when to be funny. He knew when to be strict and when to lighten up. He knew when to offer help and when to foster independence. And he knew when to simply ask, “How are things?”

Sometimes I’d show up at school to find he had a special project for me such as working with a first grader as a math tutor. I loved it, but what struck me the most was that, in order to do that, he must have thought of me outside of school. I was stunned by that.

Up until that point, my teachers had largely written me off as “slow.” (I’m sure my standardized test results told them I was pretty much illiterate.) The year before, my teacher hadn’t asked me for a single assignment. Many kids would think that pretty great, but it wasn’t. Why? Because I was smart enough to know what it meant. He thought it didn’t matter.

There is more of me in Fish in a Tree than any other book I have worked on. There are several scenes lifted right out of my own life; some of it was tough to get on paper because I’d get choked up. Mr. Christy saved me. He really did. He had a quiet confidence in me and, by the time I left sixth grade, I did too.

While I was a sophomore at The University of Connecticut, I saw Mr. Christy at a restaurant called AC Petersen Farms which figures prominently in the book. (The three main characters, Ally, Albert, and Keisha sit in that same booth many times.) I went over, and he immediately knew who I was. Remembered my name. I told him I’d been studying to be a teacher and doing well. He smiled without showing teeth and gave a single, emphatic nod. “Of course you are,” he said, clearing his throat. “Of course you are.”

“It’s because of you,” I said. “I want to be the kind of teacher that you are.”

“Oh, thank you,” he said, looking down at the table and rearranging his silverware. When he looked back up, he asked about my older brother, Ricky, who had also been his student. That was Mr. Christy – not one to take credit when he so clearly deserved it.

Teachers…I know it isn’t an eight-to-three job like many assume. I know that you carry more—are responsible for more—than you ought to be. I know the job of teaching kids is made more difficult by testing expectations that don’t often serve children. I know you work a ton of weekends and over the summer.  Your kids are never too far from your thoughts.

But I also know firsthand (from both sides of the desk) the kind of influence a teacher possesses. You are life changers. If you care for a child’s heart and soul as well as her mind by setting high expectations, maybe—just maybe—she’ll find you in a restaurant one day and tell you how she struggled but pushed through it, got into a good school, and is ready to set the world on fire.

All because of you.




Click on the Let’s Get Busy Podcast with the incomparable Matthew Winner to hear a love fest for great teachers :-)