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My life on a page.
I grew up just outside of New York City in a town called Jericho. I attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where I got my undergraduate degree in political science (B.A. ’90). Then I went to law school at New York University School of Law (J.D. ’93). I passed the bar exam in both New York and New Jersey and got a job as an associate at a large Manhattan law firm.
But after about a year, I realized the legal profession was not for me. I always loved teaching and working with kids, so I went back to school (again) and earned a master’s degree in early childhood and elementary education from Long Island University (M.S. ’95).
While working toward my master’s, I began teaching in the New York City Public Schools, and for the next five years, I taught fifth and sixth grade in the Tremont section of the South Bronx. Much of the time, I lacked basic classroom supplies – paper, pencils and even chalk for the blackboard. So I had to be creative. I built a language arts curriculum around music and song lyrics. Dave Matthews, Barenaked Ladies (the guys who sing the theme song to The Big Bang Theory), Blues Traveler, Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean all visited my students. My class was also featured on the CBS television program, Coast to Coast.
In 1999, I transferred to P.S. 333, the Manhattan School for Children located in Upper Manhattan. For the next six years, I taught English and American History to sixth, seventh and eighth graders, and once again, I integrated music and the arts into my curriculum. I worked with the Lincoln Center Institute, Broadway shows (Wicked, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Off-Broadway shows (Def Poetry Jam, De la Guarda), and many museums and cultural institutions.
While working at MSC, I started my next career, writing. I incorporated many of experiences into my teachings. In fact, as a year-end project, I had my students choose a topic in history, research the subject area, and create their own picture books to be shared with the younger students.
I left the classroom in 2006 in order to write full time, but I wasn’t finished with working with young people. I began chaperoning student-volunteer trips to New Orleans to help in the post-Hurricane Katrina recovery effort. I founded The NOLA Tree, a non-profit youth service organization and served as the Executive Director. We worked with other non-profit and service organizations on community building and development projects.
These days, I’m still writing full time and visiting schools all over world, talking to kids about reading, writing, process and creativity. I now have a whole bunch of picture books (Shoeless Joe & Black Betsy,The Shot Heard ‘Round the World, Twenty One Elephants, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Turkey Bowl, The Hallelujah Flight and The Unforgettable Season), a couple teen novels (Playing the Field, Busted), and along with Loren Long, a New York Times bestselling middle grade chapter book series, Sluggers!
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