The conductor and the orchestra

The conductor and the orchestra

'Gross Science'

Have you ever wondered how Scholastic, the children’s book publisher, finds its writers?

It recruits successful teachers.

Kristin Geller

They stay in the classroom, which becomes a kind of laboratory, a place where they can develop and test their ideas, and then share them with other teachers.

Kristin Geller of Demarest, the wife of Englewood Hospital and Medical Center’s president and CEO, Warren Geller, is one of those teachers.

For 20 years, Ms. Geller was a classroom teacher, working in kindergarten, first, fourth, and fifth grades in a school district in New York’s Westchester County and then in a private school in Connecticut. Once she moved to Bergen County with her husband and their then-9-year-old twins, Ms. Geller decided that she wanted a more flexible schedule as the family adjusted to their new life. She became an adjunct at Bergen Community College and an assistant in the lower school at Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood.

For the last 15 years, she also has worked for Scholastic and has published six teachers’ manuals there. The most recent one, “Gross Science” – a simply wonderful name, because when she says gross, she means gross! – is part of a program for second-graders.

Despite its focus on science, the book teaches writing. Its goal is to model nonfiction writing for young students. “It’s called the launch text,” Ms. Geller said. “A teacher would share it with her students, looking at how the experiments were written up and how the author presents factual information. Then the kids go off and try it themselves, or they might come up with their own experiments and try to write about them.

“The ultimate goal is to have them write and present their own science experiments.

“Right now I’m working on a unit on Native Americans,” Ms. Geller continued. “One source is about Chief Joseph” – who died in 1904 – “and Susan Shown Harjo, who is still alive and kicking. I am going to present information on both of them. That writing unit is on comparing and contrasting.”

Ms. Geller also has won election – uncontested, the best kind – to the school board in Demarest, which has its own elementary and middle school; she sits on the board of Temple Emanu-El of Closter as well. Both present learning opportunities for this lifelong teacher.

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