I sat scrolling through Penny Kittle’s site today because in two weeks I will have the honor of introducing her at a presentation for our local reading council. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Penny Kittle, enjoy researching her. She has contributed an amazing amount of work to both the areas of reading and writing. I heard her speak about four or five years ago when she visited the Great Lakes Regional IRA convention and on a fluke I chose to attend her presentation. I don’t usually choose sessions that state “for grades K-12.” She was unknown to me. On this particular day, I must have liked the description of her presentation for this is where I discovered Penny Kittle. I may have just liked her name. It’s a great name. Fun to say. Penny Kittle. I remember marveling immediately at her ability to reach the entire audience. I was drawn in and even when she was making a teaching point for a higher grade level, she was so engaging that I not only found myself intrigued but I also wanted to try this approach with a group of older students!
I learned many things today about Penny’s career, published works, and professional relationships. The most heartfelt discovery was that Penny Kittle gave Donald Graves’ eulogy. They had worked closely together and even coauthored a book. I grew up as a teacher with the work of Donald Graves and his work has had a profound influence on my teaching. I was drawn in and began to read the warm words of the eulogy she had written. Her message is a beautiful tribute to a wonderful man. If you also fell in love with writing workshop through Donald Graves, find Penny’s piece, grab some kleenex, and read it.
I looked at Penny Kittle’s full itinerary of workshops and conferences posted on her website. I am in awe. I try to imagine her world full of students, teachers, other professional colleagues, and family. I wonder when she escapes to write and where she finds her quiet. As I finish adding a few notes for her visit to our reading council, I notice her comments off to the side on Twitter and skim through them. I am fascinated by her interactions with people and so I keep reading. I find this response and stop. “Teaching is heart work. It takes all we have, but every day is an opportunity. It gives more than it takes from me.” Beautiful. I stop reading and write down her comment. I know this feeling. It speaks to me. I will wake up tomorrow morning and walk around with this thought in my head. Although I am a little awestruck, I now know how to introduce Penny Kittle.