Photo by Michael Ventura

Lynn Stuart

Fifth Grade, Wayside Elementary School, Potomac

Photo by Michael VenturaSomething novel is happening in teacher Lynn Stuart’s classroom: It’s notably peaceful as students read silently about the imaginary world of Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth.

After a few minutes, two combined language arts groups of 16 students—sprawled on the carpeted floor or in chairs—gather around Stuart and listen attentively as she begins to read aloud. She does so with enthusiasm, belying the fact that she has read this same book dozens of times during her 26 years as a teacher, with the last 15 at Wayside. Then she invites students to participate.

“OK, friends, we’re about to meet some colorful characters,” she says before assigning parts to read aloud during this class last spring.

It’s a technique that the veteran teacher relies on to help her students connect with what they’re reading and with each other. Stuart says it also provides a way to expose them to more challenging literature under her guidance.

“My philosophy is if I can hook them on reading by fifth grade, I feel like they will be readers for the rest of their lives,” says Stuart, 55, of North Potomac. “Reading aloud is such a good way to connect with kids—a way to calm down and refocus, and it’s enjoyable.”

Wayside Principal Yong-Mi Kim says Stuart’s classroom is a haven. During visits, she often finds Stuart’s students “so engaged in their reading that they…cry through their books.”


She describes Stuart as “a loving teacher, with a gentleness about her which children gravitate towards.” And yet, Kim says, Stuart is “firm about her expectations in terms of student work. Her influence is not just for one year, but lasts a lifetime.”

Biggest Surprise As a Teacher:

“That there are still surprises: The day may not unfold the way I expect. A child comes up with a question or an idea that makes all of us—me included—think in a different direction.”

—Lisa Braun-Kenigsberg


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