Giving Back by Jen Vincent

My second year teaching, in an effort to motivate one of my students to read a book that he was assigned to read in one of his classes, I offered to buy him any book that he wanted. When he told me that he wanted me to buy him The Return of the Antichrist by Patrick Heron, my jaw dropped and I was completely speechless. Later, when I looked up the book, I found out it was a Christian fiction book but I just didn’t feel comfortable buying that for him. I learned my lesson to not make the mistake of offering to buy a student any book. Since then, when a student has earned a book, I usually give him or her a choice of 3-5 books that I choose based on what I know about the student as a reader. (As a hearing itinerant teacher, I worked with students primarily in a one-to-one situation or small group so it was easier to do this than if I had had a classroom. Students earned points for bringing all their materials and could save for a pencil, a bookmark or a book)

This year, I find myself remembering what it was like when I first started teaching and how I felt about teaching those first few years a lot because I am now a teacher leader for my district co-coordinating our Teacher Mentor Program. I student taught in my district when I was college and then was fortunate enough to be hired as a teacher here my first year. I completed our two-year mentor program as a new teacher. I had amazing cooperating teachers and a wonderful mentor who made me want to support new teachers. After moving to a standard certificate, I applied to be a mentor myself. Currently, I am mentoring my third new teacher while also supporting all the new teachers.

When I found out I would be taking this position, I was torn in trying to decide whether I left some of my books for the next person or took them with me. I wrestled with this, knowing that if I was new to a position I would bring my own materials and that I might not want to have to go through and weed out materials left from a previous teacher. Not to mention that my books are my babies and had not been paid for by the school district. In the end, I packed up all of the books that I had personally bought for my “office” library. But then, I found out that my student teacher, Maggie, was hired for the position. My books sat in my garage until I finally realized that they would be much better off with Maggie and with students so I have been bringing in a few boxes at a time for her.

Maggie totally rearranged my old office and has created her own version of the “office” library for students to access. Here is what she has set up so far:

This week, I brought her a few more boxes that she is so excited to unload!


I don’t have to try too hard to remember how great it felt to get any materials donated to me as a new teacher because it has never gotten old. Even now as a veteran teacher, I love getting materials donated. It was great to see how excited she was to have so many books to be able to offer to her students.
Giving books to Maggie is my own version of paying it forward. I’ll never forget the colleagues who have supported me as a teacher throughout my entire career so far and I’m sure there are many who will support me in the future. Being able to give books to her is my small way of giving back. Maybe you’ll think about how you felt when you were new to your professional (whether it’s teaching or not) and do something for someone who is new.

If you have any ARCs to donate, you can find more information about who you can give them to at Reach a Reader – ARCs Float On:

And any teachers who would love to receive ARCs can sign up here:

I would love to hear any stories of your first year teaching if you are a teacher, or how you have supported new professionals you work with!

Jen Vincent taught as a hearing itinerant teacher for ten years. She currently works as a teacher leader in her district co-coordinating the Teacher Mentor Program. Her dreams of bringing her love of literacy to this new position are coming true. It’s one small step for this girl, but one giant leap towards Nerdy Book Club world domination. Jen blogs at and is on Twitter as @mentortexts.