In her younger days, teaching was the one thing Pernille Ripp didn’t want to do. She went to college but, unsure of her career path, soon dropped out. “As the story goes, I met a boy, and that boy asked me what I was going to do with my life,” she says. “I realized the one thing I had been running away from was what I most wanted to do—work with kids.” Since then, Ripp has made a powerful impact, not only in her own classroom, but through writing, speaking at events, offering professional development, and facilitating a global literacy project.

The Basics

School: Oregon Middle School, Wisconsin

Career Path: Ripp holds a bachelor’s degree in education and has taught fourth, fifth, and now seventh grade.

Teaching Philosophy: “For me, it’s all about student choice and student voice and student ownership.”

Cool Project

Global Read Aloud: Ripp launched the project in 2010; it involves inviting classrooms around the world to read the same book at the same time. The next event will take place in the fall and last for six weeks, but you can prepare now. First, visit and select a book you want to share with your students. From there, you can choose how you wish to connect with other classes reading the same title, as well as the book’s author. Popular tools include Twitter, Skype, Google Hangout, Edmodo, and even snail mail, if you lack the technology. The level of involvement is up to each participant. “Some people read the book aloud, and at the end the only thing they do is watch the culminating author interview,” Ripp says. “Others make it a whole-school event with assemblies, service projects, and amazing things I never would have thought to do.”

Picture Books for Big Kids

Pete & Pickles, by Berkeley Breathed. “A picture book every classroom, no matter the kids’ ages, should own.”

The North Star, by Peter H. Reynolds. “This one makes me cry every time I read it, and yet hopefully it inspires my students to find their own path.”

The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig. “This picture book will allow you to have the toughest conversation with your students.”

What’s your proudest teaching accomplishment?

“Making a difference in the lives of kids who feel like no one cares. It’s that moment when a kid tells you their truth, and you know it’s because they trust you. Or when a kid tells you, ‘I’m here because of you.’ The minute a child feels like you care about them, you can go places.”

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Photo: Courtesy of Pernille Ripp