Sunday, April 20, 2014

If Not for Franki


Everyone remembers their first year teaching. At least the bits and pieces time has been kind enough to let hover in our memory. My first year was probably no different than many others. I felt completely overwhelmed and unprepared for what I had gotten myself in for. I was hired in a new state, in a district that had so many accolades, feeling grossly out of place. As I arrived at my first "new teacher orientation" event, I was greeted by a rather spunky individual with an infectious laugh. Little did I know, this would only be the beginning of a journey in my professional career that Franki Sibberson would continue to touch. 

As I stumbled through my first year of teaching, I remember asking a team member what professional books I should read. I was feeling the same as many others, that college had left me unprepared for the real world. I realized I needed some help. My team mate directed me to the books in the library written by Franki. All the sudden, light bulbs started to go off. Franki Sibberson? The person who will always remain one of my first memories of a district I was falling in love with? She was an author?

If you have had the opportunity to meet Franki, you know that she is one of the most humble people out there. I sat through a week of new teacher orientation watching Choice Literacy videos of other amazing teachers in our district and having her talk about other professionals to learn and grow from and not once did she mention her achievements. That's just who she is. 

I learned and grew as a literacy teacher my first year alongside Beyond Leveled Books: Supporting Early and Transitional Readers in Grades K-5 and Still Learning to Read: Teaching Students in Grades 3-6, both written by Franki and Karen Szymusiak. 

At the end of my first year teaching, I ended up being RIFed. I was heartbroken. Then I got a phone call. I was being picked back up at Riverside Elementary, which just so happened to be the elementary school Franki was working at at the time. 

I was totally starstruck when I was introduced to her. I even asked my teammate, Kami, if she thought I could ask for Franki to sign my books. Kami advised me against this, because that was just not Franki. I was lucky enough to learn and grow so much more that year. I was introduced to books and authors that changed my world. I transitioned from an adult reader to a children's book reader. My classroom instruction changed. Franki made me question thing I did and look more critically at everything. 

Since then, I found a community of professionals to learn and grow from on Twitter because of Franki's encouragement. I have met amazing people at conferences because Franki has introduced me. I have started a blog, because she knew how much I wanted to, even though I struggled and kept on me about it. I have become more purposeful in my professional reading because Franki saw what I needed to continue to grow. There are more thing than I can even count that she has helped me with. 

Thank you so much, Franki! I hope you have the most amazing birthday ever. I hope you feel the love today from all those around you that you have touched!


  1. Your story is the story of so many young teachers in our district. Not only does she touch the lives of her own students, she touches the lives of all of yours! What a treasure she is!

  2. I agree with MaryLee - Franki has touched so many lives. How wonderful for our district's new teachers that she is one of the first professionals you get to know.

    And on a lighter note, without Franki, there might not be #carPD !! :)

  3. Love this Katie! She is one amazing lady, friend, teacher and overall AWESOMENESS!!!

  4. I love how you remembering should I ask her to autograph your book. I did ask her to sign mine :)

  5. Oh, Katie, this is wonderful - her influence on new and seasoned teachers is truly remarkable!

  6. Thanks, Katie! Made my day. Starstruck-you are very amusing:-) So glad we met that day in that meeting! I love that we get to learn together:-)

  7. Katie,
    If not for Franki we wouldn't have had #carPD, and I wouldn't have met one of my favorite book mentors.

    Your post made me smile.

  8. Katie,
    Your post made me smile start to finish! I could feel your apprehension and your wonder as you met and then worked alongside such an influence! Lucky you!