Franki Sibberson has been inspiring me for almost all of my career. For at least as long as I was wise enough to know who she is. For one thing, she wrote multiple books while she was a classroom teacher. As one who has opted to remain a classroom teacher for more than two decades and who wanted to stretch and try new things, Franki was a model. She proved to me it could be done. (Whether or not I could actually do it was different, of course.) Franki collaborated with many different people on many different projects, all while teaching her class of elementary students. (I use past tense because she did retire last year.) Just in case you aren’t fully impressed yet, Franki served as president of NCTE while a classroom teacher. She’s one of a few people I look at and think, “I want to be her when I grow up.”
Another area that makes me appreciate Franki immensely is children’s literature. She reads and reads and reads and shares and shares and shares. She’s likely cost me a pretty penny as I’ve purchased books she wrote about, but my students have benefited greatly from how widely Franki reads and how generously she shares about books.
Franki has also been a model for me of what it means to be a white woman who wants to do the work of challenging racism, homophobia, white supremacy, ableism, and on and on. I often feel so unsure and lacking in knowledge that I feel frozen. Seeing others, like Franki, admit their own hesitations and still move forward, keep learning, and take action is inspiring and helpful, which feels like an understatement.
It is a gift to be teaching in an age in which it is so easy to learn from others you may never get the chance to meet. Between twitter and her co-authored blog, I get to learn from Franki on a regular basis, rather than just when a new article or book would get published. Of course, that assumes that folks are willing to share as generously and freely as Franki does. She may not be in the classroom anymore, but she’s definitely still teaching. And I am grateful.