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5 Books on Education that Energize and Inspire

White Bear Lake Area Schools’ Innovation Coaches suggest their favorite recent professional reads.

Nick Marty
Oct 1, 2018 · 7 min read

“Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled — This could change your life.“-Helen Exley

Educators today have no shortage of avenues to professional development outside of what a district provides. With technology, information and connections are easy to obtain. Good teachers constantly look to get better and adjust their approach to meet the needs of the individuals that walk through their doors.

I would be the first to champion Twitter as a place to gather ideas and grow your personal learning network. Other social media platforms such as Facebook for Education and Google+ are vast resources as well, but these platforms can be intimidating for new users.

There are many certification programs in which a person can obtain confidence and valuable skills around different teaching methods. These courses are typically self-paced and can be done from the comfort of your home. Google Certified Educator, Seesaw Ambassador, and Flipgrid (to name a few) specifically teach you how to use those tools in meaningful ways.

That being said, there is something about books that will always stand the test of time. Books can have a lasting effect on people. That is why we consistently turn to them for answers and learning. South African author Helen Exley said it best…

“Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled — This could change your life.”

I can remember two books that truly rocked my professional world. The first was The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. As a young teacher it transformed my reading instruction and spoke to the core of why I chose this line of work.

The second, Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, I feature later on in this story. I wasn’t the same teacher upon finishing those pages. My practice was transformed in a way that energized me to maximize my own creativity. My students benefited from my renewed passion.

Those two books shaped a large part of who I am as an educator. I feel as if they are a part of my DNA now. This edition of Innovate 624 looks at five suggestions of professional reading that have the potential to energize and inspire you.

“Bold School” by Weston Kieschnick

Good teachers cannot be replaced by technology, but technology has the capability of making us better at what we do. Blending it into instruction is non-negotiable if we are to help our students gain the skills they will need to be successful in their future.

Taken from his own experiences, Weston Kieschnick looks at “Old School” wisdom around intentional blended learning and combines it with purposeful technology use to enhance instruction and learning.

Innovation Coach LuAnne Oklobzija recommends it greatly saying…

“I love that this takes what we all have been doing and through research and pedagogy creates great learning opportunities for students that promotes the 4 C’s and student agency. It is the combination of our “old school wisdom” and 21st century skills that will get our students ready for their future.”

Too often, technology use is focused around the newest, coolest tool instead of the instructional strategy. The goals of Bold School are to help develop a blend of new and old to increase student achievement.

“How to Teach So Students Remember” by Marilee B. Sprenger

There is little sense in teaching content to our students that they can’t remember later. Getting knowledge to “stick” is crucial for our success as educators.

Marilee Spenger looks at how teachers can help transmit knowledge that is appropriately stored in the brain and easily recalled through a proven, research-based, easy-to-follow framework.

Using this framework you will discover how to actively engage students and learn multiple strategies to help them secure knowledge through reflection and clarification of understanding through brain science.

Innovation Coach Troy Strand had this to say about the book…

“It is a fascinating look at a seven step process beginning with building a relationship with students and using neuroscience to inform the entire process. I highly recommend it to classroom teachers who really want to teach with the brain in mind and make a lasting impact with their students.”

How To Teach So Students Remember contains practical strategies and suggestions to transform the way you teach and improve student achievement by helping students to remember what is important when they need to.

“Cultivating Curiosity” by Wendy L. Ostroff

George Couros famously stated, “If students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.” The hard part about curiosity is that it’s self-driven. As educators, our job is to help students unleash it from within.

Wendy L. Ostroff explains that we learn best by engaging, exploring, asking questions and testing out answers. Yet many of our school spaces have not always been structured to encourage and support curiosity. Her book explores how teachers can create a student-centered approach that promotes inquiry and authentic learning.

Innovation Coach Shannon Treichel recently read the book and commented…

“It’s an interesting book based on research that gives practical examples on how to structure a classroom to support student exploration. I recommend it to educators who want to turn their classrooms into inquiry-based environments with more student engagement.”

Exploration, questioning, critical thinking, experimenting, and play, Cultivating Curiosity can help your classroom foster curiosity through research based techniques and advice. Help your students unlock their love for learning that can leave a powerful impact on their school experience.

“Dive into Inquiry” by Trevor MacKenzie

Are you sensing a theme yet? Yet another book on empowering students through inquiry. That’s because it works and makes learning meaningful to students by helping them create authentic connections to the world around them.

Trevor MacKenzie is a true champion of this approach. His book is a perfect guide on how to shift from a traditional learning model into an inquiry classroom, where student agency and choice are celebrated. A place where student passions and curiosities shape where the learning goes. When students find value, there is no telling how far they will go.

Innovation Coach Ryan Clark raved saying…

Dive into Inquiry is a quick and inspiring read, with actionable ideas for educators who want to implement inquiry-based learning in their classrooms. It breaks down the abstract idea of inquiry into an understandable framework: the Four Pillars of Inquiry.

The Four Pillars of Inquiry (structured inquiry, controlled inquiry, guided inquiry, and free inquiry) provide an inquiry progression that aligns with education’s philosophical shift towards more student-centered classrooms where students have freedom to explore, research, and create authentic learning experiences.

Dive Into Inquiry offers inspiring narratives, student examples, meaningful pedagogy, useful processes, and how-to lessons plans to help you promote a gradual shift of control of learning from you to your learners. Explore the different types of student inquiry and learn how to keep track of the many different learning topics that could be happening all at once inside your classroom.

It is a very visual book with lots of fantastic illustrations and offers flexibility with your practice so you can make it your own. Be careful, this book could radically change how your classroom operates and feels!

“Teach Like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess

Steak is best with a little sizzle. You wouldn’t eat it cold and raw. Dave Burgess feels teaching is the same way. You need a little energy and sizzle to really make it enjoyable. His goals are to inspire educators to look differently about their role with learning and to increase their creativity. Creativity is skill that can be developed.

Teach Like a Pirate offers over over 30 “hooks” that can be used at all levels to increase student engagement and boost creativity. Learn to effectively pull off the “Swimming with Sharks” hook or create suspense through the “Mystery Bag” hook. These hooks can recharge your mind and make teaching a blast. I can speak first hand to their effectiveness.

His “PIRATE” mantra is an acronym describing 6 traits of an engaging teacher ; Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask & Analyze, Transformation, Enthusiasm. Don’t worry, you don’t have to wear eye patches or buy a parrot to teach like a pirate, but applying the strategies found in the book will help get students pumped to learn each and everyday.


“Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you.” — Louis L’Amour

These are just some of our favorites that have inspired us in the past and now we want to hear from you. Join in on the action by tweeting an inspirational book of your own using #innovate624.

Next week’s Innovate 624 will feature a look into amplifying student voice and we will be featuring different stories from around the district.

Innovate 624

Inspiring a mindset of innovation.

Nick Marty

Written by

Nick is an Innovation Coach in the White Bear Lake, MN school district. He is a former elementary teacher and believes a good GIF can change the world.

Innovate 624

Inspiring a mindset of innovation.

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