Pumpkin in My Bread Pan

And you thought I had probably run out of titles like this one!


As I may have mentioned in the past, my cooking/baking skills have never really been up to snuff. But when I switched to a whole food, plant based diet, something clicked! Or maybe it’s that I couldn’t go wrong when I cooked and baked with plant based, whole foods! Suddenly I was able to put together meals that the whole family loved!

BV (that’s Before Veganism), I followed recipes to a “T”. I measured ingredients scientifically, crouching down and making sure liquids were at the exact level they needed to be. I carefully used a knife to level dry ingredients. (Because a teaspoon was supposed to be exactly that. A teaspoon.) I would have never dreamed of deviating from a recipe. My husband use to make fun of me. He tried convincing me that the measurements given in recipes were  approximations. Ha! I wasn’t buying into that one.

Well, I am proud to say I have come a long way. I know now how to add a little of this and a little of that. I taste everything along the way. No worries about salmonella from eating raw eggs!  The only trouble I have been having is with my baking. Even when my batter has tasted out of this world delicious, what came out of the oven sometimes was anything but. Definitely a learning curve.

Which brings me to this recipe. Inspired by many of the fall recipes floating around out there, but probably mostly by Kathy Patalsky at Healthy.Happy.Life.  This took numerous attempts to get “just right”, but I am thrilled with the end result.


The aftermath.


At this point, I was thinking that I may have finally gotten it right!


Because how could anything that looks this pretty not taste good?


It came out of the oven still living up to my expectations!


It’s still pretty hot at this point, but I simply could not wait any longer!


And a little bit of Earth Balance sent this over the top!

Chocolate Swirl Pumpkin Bread

2 1/2 c. oat flour (I grind whole oats in a blender)

1 T. baking powder

3/4  t. salt

1 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. nutmeg

1/8 t. ginger

1 T. ground flax seed

1 c. almond milk

1/2 c. maple syrup

1/3 c. coconut oil

1 t. vanilla

1 1/4 c. pumpkin puree

3 T. cacao powder

1/3 c. chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a large bowl. Whisk to combined. Warm all cold liquids. Place almond milk, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, flax seed, and pumpkin puree, in a blender. Blend. Pour liquid mixture into dry mixture. Stir. Pour batter into a greased bread pan, RESERVING about 1 cup of the batter. Into that 1 cup, add 3 T. cacao powder. Combine. Add chocolate chips to the chocolate batter. Stir. Place four 1/4 cup blobs into batter that is in the pan. Swirl a knife through the batter. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes before removing from bread pan.

Sticky Note Poetry

Before I started blogging, I did a lot of blog reading. As I teacher of language arts, I understood the importance of  mentor texts (or perhaps I should say mentor blogs). Before I began creating my own blog, I knew I needed to see quality examples of what I wanted to produce.

During this process, I stumbled upon the blog A Fullness in Brevity by Adam Byatt. This was the first blog that I had explored that was not health/food related. I felt like it was fate. The first post I saw was all about “Post It Note Poetry”. I was instantly enthralled and excited. The wheels started spinning…I had just landed my dream job-middle school language arts (you think I kid, but I kid you not!)-and I knew this was an activity I wanted to incorporate into my classroom.

You see, teachers by nature, are control freaks. (Don’t tell one that I told you this.) They tend to prefer order and routine. Uncontrolled chaos (and if you’re a teacher you know the difference between controlled chaos and uncontrolled chaos) makes them feel extremely anxious. Organized chaos…doable. And what you really need to know, is when I say “they”, well, I really mean “me”. Anyway…

At the beginning of the school year, I introduced  Adam’s Post It Note Poetry. (I respectfully renamed it “Sticky Note Poetry”, as kids gave me a blank stare when I said “Post It Note”).

Now, each day when they explode (yes, explode) into the classroom, they settle in while I take attendance and deal with the little issues that arise, by writing sticky note poetry.

photo 1

And for those of you who are missing it…that tree in the upper right hand corner? It’s a Poe”tree”. Get it? Poetree? Poetry?

I was amazed at the excitement the sticky note poetry created. Students who I would have never expected to participate in poetry writing (at least not by their own free will, anyway) were waving their hands begging for me to let them share what they created. This includes students with autism, ADD, ADHD, and students with other special needs.

Could it have been that since a “grade” was not part of the experience they felt more freedom to write? In this instance, creativity trumped spelling and structure. Now, hear me…I am not throwing spelling, or poetry structure out the door…I am just saving it for when I formally teach poetry. For now, I just want the kids to enjoy the process of creating poems, and to develop a love and appreciation for the written word.

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This was Caleb’s acrostic poem “SCHOOL DAY”. What strikes me most is that I never in a million years would have thought Caleb had this positive attitude toward school and himself. I am grateful that I was able to learn more about Caleb via his poem! His last line is: You are as smart as everyone else.

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Thank you, Adam for sticky note poetry! You are helping me create classrooms of poetry lovers!



Sorry, Cinnabon…

I’m in a healthier relationship. I’ve met someone who does not have 880 calories, or 36 grams of fat (17 of which are saturated). And even though they cannot compare to your 59 grams of sugar, I still find them incredibly sweet.

Cinnabon. My husband and I spent so much money there during my first pregnancy, that we probably should have bought stock in the company! I craved those soft, gooey rolls, and my husband was a huge enabler. We indulged so often that he claimed his “baby weight” was Cinnabon induced. Quite conveniently, there was a Cinnabon at our local mall. I would be embarrassed to admit how frequently we stopped by. And we didn’t share.

Over twenty years have passed since my first pregnancy. We still laughingly recall how one of the workers exuberantly rolled out the dough, rocking her whole body back and forth with the motion of the rolling pin. After forming a perfect rectangle, she would slather the dough with a buttery concoction. Then, she would pile on the sweet, “cinnamony” goodness, before carefully rolling the dough up into a log. What a production! Very theatrical. It’s a wonder she never threw her back out!

I miss those rolls. But I certainly don’t miss how I felt after eating one. Talk about a sugar and fat induced coma! Blah!

Cinnabon is definitely not whole foods, nor is it vegan, so it has been a long time since I have indulged. Fortunately, I found something even better!  Not only is it to die for good, but it’s comparatively quite healthy! It fills me up, and gives me energy! Definitely a win-win!

Last Saturday, I woke up craving something sweet, warm and comforting.  But, I also knew that I wanted to go for a run once it warmed up outside. (There’s nothing more beautiful or energizing than a run on a sunny, October morning in Wisconsin!) After browsing through some of my favorite blogs, I decided to go with what I knew. I have had this delicious baked oatmeal numerous times in the past. I knew it would take care of my craving, but not interfere with my mid-morning run. I quickly threw  the ingredients together and slid it into the oven. Within a half of an hour I was savoring this delectable bowl of oats.  I went for a run a couple of hours after breakfast and I felt on top of the world!

Oatmeal, cinnamon and sea salt...

Oatmeal, cinnamon and sea salt…

almond milk, vanilla, and maple syrup...

apple sauce, almond milk, vanilla, and maple syrup…

Dry...meet wet, wet...meet dry...

Dry…meet wet, wet…meet dry…



And then...a little "cream cheese" frosting...

And then…a little “Cheesecake Sauce”…


Bon appétit!

Bon appétit!

Typically, I putz around with recipes, personalizing them to my own tastes. This, however, was perfection from the start. Chocolate Covered Katie knows her stuff! Especially when it comes to Cinnamon Roll Baked Oatmeal! And the Cinnamon Bun Frosting? I wouldn’t even need the cinnamon roll to put it on. It’s that good!


No Eggs? No Problem!

When I eliminated meat from my diet, it was not a big deal for me whatsoever. I had never been a fan. Ever. Three childhood memories come to mind when I think of my history with meat.

1. While there were many nights that I would sit at the table well beyond suppertime, with cold chunks of meat on my plate,  one particular night, when I was about eight, comes to mind. I excused myself, my cheeks stuffed full of whatever kind of meat we were having that evening. I had planned on going outside and then spitting my meat out into the wooded lot next door. I’m not sure how I ever thought I would get away with it…I mean it must have been pretty darn obvious. Anyway…unbeknownst to me, my dad went out the back, while I disappeared out the front. Boy was I surprised when he snuck up on me while I was busy spitting it out! Busted. I remember running into the house crying. Traumatic. Very traumatic.

2. And then there was the time (and I have no idea when this started), that my dad convinced me that ring bologna was actually duck. In my mind, it had to be the duck’s neck. I mean, look at it. One only needs to think of  “The Ugly Duckling” to make that connection. Or maybe I was thinking of the neck of the beautiful swan. I can’t remember. Nor can I remember when I finally realized that it wasn’t duck. This connection totally did me in. I had to choke it down whenever it was served. (Which felt like ALL THE TIME! Worst meal ever? Ring bologna boiled with potatoes and cabbage.)

3. And of course, there was my memory of a spanferkel. That was the first time I ever saw a pig being cooked. Whole. With an apple in its mouth. And its cute little curly tail all charred. Lasting image that has scarred me forever. That was a camping tradition that has haunted me ever since I was about 4.

See what I mean? No meat? No problem!

Eggs, on the other hand…not so easy. I occasionally ate eggs scrambled, or in omelets. That wasn’t too difficult to avoid. The real problem was, that they were IN everything! (Or so it seemed.) Apparently, eggs do many things…they bind, they leaven, and they give structure. Who knew? Eliminating eggs was a bit more problematic. Little did I know that other foods existed that could do the work of eggs!  “Flax eggs” (1 T. ground flax seed in 1 T. water), “chia eggs” (same recipe as flax eggs…just sub chia for ground flax), bananas, silken tofu, or non-dairy yogurt! Amazing!

My best discovery to date, however, has been the use of super firm tofu to imitate scrambled eggs!

No eggs? No problem!

Veggie Tofu Scramble

Veggie Tofu Scramble

Chop your veggies!

Chop your veggies!

Garlic and onion in the pan!

Garlic and onion in the pan!

Peppers...red, yellow, and green!

Peppers…red, yellow, and green!

A little fungi!

A little fungi!

And this bad boy gets crumbled up...

And this bad boy gets crumbled up…

...and added to the veggies!

…and added to the veggies!

A little turmeric, a little nutritional yeast, and a sprinkling of sea salt...

A little turmeric, a little nutritional yeast, and a sprinkling of sea salt…

Fresh tomatoes...

Fresh tomatoes…

...and spinach...

…and spinach…

...remove from heat and cover to steam!

…remove from heat and cover to steam!

Veggie Tofu Scramble (feeds 4 normal people…more like 2-3 “Karen” servings however)

veggies of choice…I used:

1/2 small onion-chopped

2 cloves garlic-minced

1/4 each-green pepper, red pepper, yellow peppers-chopped

1 tomato-chopped

2 handfuls spinach

1 block tofu (pressed)

1/8 c. nutritional yeast

1 T. turmeric

salt and pepper to taste

avocado to garnish

Saute garlic and onion. I just used water to prevent sticking. When onions are translucent, add peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms. Cook for 2 more minutes. Push veggies to outside of pan. Crumble tofu. Add nutritional yeast, turmeric, salt and pepper. Stir. Add tomatoes and spinach. Cover and remove from heat until spinach wilts. Stir. Serve with avocado or any other fixings that trip your trigger!

And what trips your trigger?





“Feelin’ Green” Vegan Overnight Oats

In order to simplify my life a little in the mornings, I have transitioned to making overnight oats! And this, by the way, is a total vanity thing. I had layers put in my hair and have been curling it. This takes much more time than straightening it. So…this is my feeble attempt to gain some time in the morning, because unless I’m getting up for an early morning run, I struggle to get up before 5:30. Vegan overnight oats allow me to throw everything into a cup the night before,  and then magically, breakfast is ready in the morning. I LOVE overnight oats!!

And sometimes…when I’m feeling like I need more green in my life…this happens. I think I need to remind you that YOU DON”T TASTE THE SPINACH. Really. Doubting me? Try it yourself! How awesome is it to get your daily amount of leafy greens in at breakfast? What a way to start the day!

Old fashioned oats and chia seeds...

Old fashioned oats and chia seeds…

I love the texture!

I love the texture!

Almond milk, banana and spinach...

Almond milk, banana and spinach…and this week I even threw in a little spirulina…living life on the wild side, I am!

Give it a whirl in the blender...

Give it a whirl in the blender…

Pour the green stuff on top of the oatmeal/chia mixture...

Pour the green stuff on top of the oatmeal/chia mixture…and tuck away in the refrigerator overnight.

Ta Da....magic!

And the next morning…Ta Da….magic! It thickens right up!

Sprinkle with unsweetened coconut flakes and walnuts!

I put it into the microwave for a minute to take the chill off, and then sprinkle with unsweetened coconut flakes and walnuts!


“Feelin’ Green” Vegan Overnight Oats

1/3 c. old fashioned oats

2 T. chia seeds

1 c. almond milk

1 banana

a couple of handfuls of spinach

1/2 – 1 t. spirulina (I don’t suggest adding this your first time…spirulina, which has phenomenal health benefits, tastes like…uhm pond water. Start off slowly with this!)


Put oatmeal and chia seeds in a container. Place almond milk, banana, spinach (and optional spirulina) in a blender cup and blend away until the spinach is completely blended. Pour this concoction on top of the oatmeal mixture. Stir. Cover. Put in refrigerator. The next morning your oatmeal is ready to be eaten. Microwave for a minute or so if you like it warm. Sprinkle goodies of your choice on top. I’m partial to walnuts and unsweetened coconut flakes!

Are there any foods that you enjoy that freak other people out? I brought this to school one day last year, and uhm…well, I didn’t have any “takers” to try it…some people have no sense of adventure!

Vegan Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches

It was definitely “one of those weeks”! Actually, it’s been two of those weeks. Nothing traumatic, just crazy busy. I am really enjoying my new position teaching middle school, BUT it does mean that I am a rookie again! So…I’m learning the ropes of middle school and teaching a brand new curriculum. This past week I also gave my students 3 standards based assessments…which meant I had 100 x 3 assessments to grade. That’s a lot of correcting. Plus, in the district where I teach, I am required to complete and analyze student surveys, and write an SLO (student learning objective) complete with artifacts and reflections. And it’s due next week!!

Then, there is my husband (the master decorator) who is gung ho for decorating for fall. So…this past weekend, away went all the summer furniture and flowers, and out came the fall harvest decorations. It was a great diversion for me, but it didn’t leave a lot of time for creativity in the kitchen.

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photo 1

I was, however, inspired to throw this meal together after looking in the fridge and pantry and discovering I had green peppers, onions, and mushrooms that needed to be used, a little leftover tomato soup, and a couple of Ezekiel hotdog buns!


An Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain hot dog bun…


I took the easy way out and grilled portobello mushrooms, green peppers, and onions on my George Foreman grill.


Arrange the veggies on the bun…


Drizzle (okay…slather) with leftover tomato soup…


Cover with Daiya shredded “mozzarella”…


And place under the broiler until the “cheese” gets all melty!

Not only was this a hit with my husband the day of, but I was the hit of the lunch room the next day as well! All those grilled veggies smell so good!

Vegan Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches 

(serves 4 “ish”)

2 portobello mushrooms (cut into 1″ strips)

1 green pepper (cut into thin strips)

1 onion (cut into bite sized pieces)

1 c. tomato soup

1/2 c. Daiya shredded mozzarella cheese

4 Ezekiel hotdog buns

Grill mushrooms, green pepper and onion. I used my George Foreman. Place grilled veggies on hot dog buns. Pour 1/4 c. of tomato soup on top. Sprinkle 1/8 c. of “cheese” on the soup layer. Broil until “cheese” gets melty.

What are your “go to” meals with life gets crazy busy?

Applelicious (This Should Definitely Be a Word)

An apple disappointment resulted in apple deliciousness! Chia Seed Oatmeal with Almond Butter and Apple Chia Seed Jam!

An apple disappointment resulted in apple deliciousness! Chia Seed Oatmeal with Almond Butter and Apple Chia Seed Jam!

It’s apple season! Or at least I thought it was apple season. Wisconsin’s subpar summer has put the apple season a wee bit behind schedule, so I’ve been trying very hard to be patient. I’ve tried distracting myself with other fruits and veggies. (You know, fed my pumpkin obsession and what not.) But last week, I simply could not wait any longer. Whether Wisconsin was ready or not, I was. So, when I was at the grocery store, I did it. I looked at all the bins of apples-the big, juicy ones from Washington state, and the puny little ones from Wisconsin. I recognized a local orchard, and bought local. (Because I know it’s the right thing to do!)

I could not get home fast enough; I was so excited to make some caramel (vegan of course..and not really caramel..but absolutely delicious nonetheless…recipe to follow in a few days) to dip my apples into! After unloading, and putting away all of the groceries, it was time. I made the caramel, and quickly cut up a couple of apples, arranged them on a plate and drizzled them with caramel, peanut butter, and carob chips. And all I can say is thank goodness for the “caramel, peanut butter and carob chips. Meh….blah…sooooo disappointed!

So now, I had a fruit drawer filled with soft, tiny, tasteless apples! How was I ever going to get rid of them? Then it hit me! I would juice those babies with some carrots! And then it hit me again! My juicer broke last spring. Then I realized I had a 30% off coupon for Kohl’s! Plus $20 Kohl’s cash! Dang…what a ride! Off to Kohl’s we went! And we came home with this sweet thing:

An Omega Juicer!!

An Omega Juicer!!

Two hours later, while my husband was happily juicing away (he likes new kitchen gadgets almost as much as I do), I became inspired yet again! I’d make some apple chia jam! How hard could it be? I’d just substitute apples for berries! And then I got even more excited! I’d use my freshly pressed apple juice for the liquid!

My apologies little red Wisconsin apples for not realizing your full potential…because what you became is simply out of this world delicious!

Apples, chia seeds, cinnamon, salt and apple juice...

Apples, chia seeds, cinnamon, salt and apple juice…

Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Apple Chia Seed Jam!

Apple Chia Seed Jam!




Apple Chia Seed Jam

4 c. peeled and cored apples (cut into bite size chunks)

2 T. chia seeds

1 t. cinnamon

a pinch of sea salt

1/2 c. – 1 c. apple juice (more or less depending on the juiciness of your apples)

Place all ingredients in a saucepan. Stir. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until apples are tender and the jam has reached the right amount of “thickness”.

I love it when I can turn my food disappointment into something this good!

When’s a Casserole Not a Casserole?


Families are funny. Or at least mine is.

For some reason, now that I can actually make food that tastes good and is good for you, my family occasionally likes to talk about meals from the old days. And most of the talk focuses on the many casseroles I use to make. And the talk is not good, not good I tell you. And for good reason.

Despite names like Cheeseburger Casserole, or Tuna Casserole, or Pizza Casserole, or even Daddy’s Favorite Casserole, they were far from family favorites. You better bet each one of these contained at least one can of Campbell’s Cream of Something or Other soup. And then there were the highly processed mushy white noodles, a can of veggies, and maybe a sprinkling of dehydrated onion and garlic powder. Throw some cheese on top and call it a day. Yep…hardly a meal made with love. But then again, I didn’t really love making them either. They were just easy.

So this brings me to the funny part. I think it’s funny (actually I think it’s downright hysterical) that since our transition to a whole food, plant based diet, some of the fam’s favorite meals are casseroles. Yeah. That’s right. They may not be called casseroles, but that’s exactly what they are! Just deconstructed. And they go by different names…like Buddha Bowls or Peace Bowls or Healing Bowls. Sounds a lot classier, doesn’t it?

When we were in the St. Paul this past weekend, I had one of those Healing Bowls at the French Meadow Bakery and Cafe (which is a must go to restaurant if you are ever in the area). It reminded me that it’s been a while since I made a deconstructed casserole at home. So that’s just what I made for supper tonight. Oh yeah…but that’s not what we call it…we call it a Kale-Sweet Potato-Chickpea-Bowl.


Chickpeas are little balls of nutrition. Per serving, they boast 12 grams of dietary fiber, 15 grams of protein, and 26% of your recommended daily allowance of iron!


1 cup of chopped kale has 206% of your daily allowance of vitamin A and 134% of your daily allowance of vitamin C, 9% of your daily allowance of calcium and 6 % of your daily allowance of iron!

DSCN5189769% vitamin A, 65% vitamin C, and 26% of your daily value of fiber.

A half of a cup of sweet potatoes boasts 769% of your daily allowance of vitamin A, 65% of vitamin C, 26% of dietary fiber, and 8% of both calcium and iron!


This Spicy Peanut Butter Sauce totally pulls the whole meal together! And I must say it boasts better nutrition than ANY Campbell’s soup.


Kale-Sweet Potato-Chickpea-Bowl with Wheatberries (adapted from Brittany Mullins at eatingbirdfood.com)

1 can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed)

about 4 cups kale

2 sweet potatoes (chopped and roasted with sea salt)



Warm chickpeas.

Put 2 servings of wheatberries into rice cooker, along with specified amount of water.

Chop potatoes into bite size pieces. Place on baking sheet and spray with coconut oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Put desired amount of chopped kale into boiling water for 3 minutes. Immediately drain and put in ice water for 1 minute. Drain. Set aside.

Place kale, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and wheatberries in a bowl. Drizzle with Spicy Peanut Butter Sauce.


Spicy Peanut Butter Sauce (from Brittany Mullins at eatingbirdfood.com)

1/2 c. peanut butter

2 cloves garlic

1/2 T. fresh ginger

1/8 c. white rice vinegar

1/8 c. brown rice syrup

1/8 c. tamari

1/2 c. water

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Did you have a favorite casserole when you were a kid?


A Coffee Shake?


Frappucino? Coffee smoothie? Not so sure what to call this, other than out of this world delicious!

This has been the week of pumpkin bread for breakfast at our house. Fortunately, I know that one slice of pumpkin bread will not tide me over until lunchtime. So, I’ve been whipping up smoothies to go along with it. Up until today, the hubby has not yet headed off to work when I’ve been making them, so I have been making smoothies that make us both happy. Most of them have been green! I love green smoothies! (And I’m still in a little bit of shock that he likes them too.) What a great way to get in your leafy greens before 7 AM!

Anyway…this morning, I was all by myself. So, when I looked in the fridge I couldn’t help but fixate on the coffee concentrate that was hiding amongst the coconut waters and nut milks. The hubby HATES all things coffee, so this was my opportunity. I quickly whipped out my 365 Days of Vegan Smoothies “cookbook”. But alas, the coffee smoothies either had ingredients I didn’t have on hand, or just didn’t fit my cravings for the day.

I then decided that there was no better time than the present to try a smoothie experiment. Because why not? I had an extra five minutes before I needed to be heading out the door for school. I grabbed a blender cup and started scrambling…a little homemade almond milk, a little (okay.. a lot) of coffee concentrate, some frozen bananas, a handful of walnuts, and a dash of cinnamon.


It certainly looked pretty in the cup!


It looked so pretty, I thought I should try for another angle.


Blend well and you have happiness in a cup! Not to mention a little caffeine to get you through the day!

Coffee Smoothie

1 1/2 frozen bananas (I always have peeled, cut up frozen bananas ready for such an occasion)

1/2 c. coffee concentrate

1/2 c. almond milk

1/8 c. walnuts

1/4 t. cinnamon

Put all ingredients into a blender, and blend until blended. There just wasn’t any other way for me to write that. Add more milk if too thick…add more bananas if too runny!

Today I Cried

Today I cried at school.

Curious? Perhaps you’re thinking I dealt with an irate parent. Or possibly an unruly student. Nope. Neither one of those. Please allow me to back up a bit, and explain.

Many years ago, someone (and someone in the field of education, mind you) told me that those who are passionate about kids teach in the elementary school, and those who are passionate about subject matter teach in the middle school and high school. Since that time, I have pondered those words frequently, always coming to the same conclusion. And each time I came to that conclusion, I felt a fair amount of guilt. What kind of teacher was I, if I didn’t feel as passionate about my students, as I felt about the subject matter I was teaching them? Unless I taught at the elementary school level, I was not  teaching for the “right” reason.

This past summer my “dream job” presented itself (middle school language arts). I knew in my heart that this was the right decision for me, but I still felt a fair amount of anxiety and nervousness, as I was faced with being a rookie once again. I knew elementary school. I had lived in that world for 13 years. It was comfortable.  Plus, I  felt that I was admitting to the world, that I was more passionate about writing than I was about the kids I taught. Ouch. But my passion was writing, and this was an opportunity for me to share my passion with others.

So that brings me to today. Today is the day I learned a big lesson. (Which is rather ironic, given the fact that I have been teaching my classes “the time I realized something” makes for a powerful narrative.)

My sixth hour class had just been dismissed, and I was busy scribbling some observational notes in my binder, when I glanced up to see one of my students standing in front of me.  There stood beautiful brown eyed, brown haired Gabi, dressed in red athletic shorts, and a black “Rocket Rowdie” t-shirt, hugging her books close to her chest, smiling shyly, and trying very hard to maintain eye contact with me.

In the classroom Gabi had been rather soft spoken, but as of  late had been engaging herself in classroom discussions. Today when I was making the rounds, and checking in with students, Gabi had asked me to listen to her talk out her story to see if the lesson she wanted her readers to learn was evident. She shared the time she had tried out for a basketball team and wanted so desperately to impress the other girls who were trying out, that she had made a complete fool of herself. She wanted to make sure her writing showed the lesson she had learned, the importance of  just being yourself. I had been impressed with the depth of her thinking.

As she stood in front of me, I was thinking that she wanted to share her completed story with me, so I was not ready when she hesitantly said,

“Mrs. Hovie, I just wanted you to know, that I’ve never liked writing, but this year I absolutely love it. I just wanted to thank you for that.”

While I know I replied something appropriate back to her…something about how much I enjoyed having her in class, and how much I was impressed with the life lesson she had shared in her story…I was profoundly affected. I could feel my throat get tight, and my eyes well up with tears. Never in my teaching career had I felt so sure that I was exactly where I needed to be and doing exactly what I needed to be doing. Gabi’s life lesson: just be yourself.

While I thought that teaching anything other than elementary school meant I wasn’t passionate for my students, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sharing my passion for writing has allowed me to develop relationships with the students I work with. Each and everyday when I sit beside them and listen to their stories, I am developing a relationship, strengthening a bond. After only one month, I already feel so connected to so many of my students.

So thank you, Gabi, for showing me that by sharing my passion, and just being myself, I can make a difference.