“Each of us has his own alphabet with which to create poetry.” – Irving Stone
Heather Kraus of Oswego likes that quotation and works to help her students find that personal alphabet with which to write.
Kraus teaches English language arts to sixth grade students at Oswego SD308′s Bednarcik Junior High School in Aurora, where she instills in her students a love for reading and a respect for the written word.
“It’s important for students to see teachers as readers,” she said during an interview in her classroom, which is jam-packed with books.
“Writing in general is hard. For some it comes more naturally,” Kraus said. “You have to do it a lot in order to get better at it.”
At Bednarcik, where she has been teaching since 2017, Kraus created the popular schoolwide “Ask me what I’m reading!” program, as well as a literacy club for students.
Kraus encourages her students to make their reading selections from the vast array of books in the classroom.
“Certain books spread like wildfire,” Kraus said, particularly novels and graphic novels.
Some people might view graphic novels as little more than glorified comic books, but Kraus finds they have value, especially as a means to get students to read.
“You can’t have a graphic novel without the words,” Kraus said. “Picture books are accessible at all levels.”
Kraus is more than willing to share personal stories with her students in order to make a point. In her classroom one morning, Kraus was taking the students through a lesson on bullying and how hurtful it can be.
Kraus is a tall woman and already had gained plenty of stature when she was still a young girl. She recounted for her sixth graders when a fellow student ridiculed her height.
“I can tell you word for word what he said, and it doesn’t go away,” Kraus told her students. “Our words carry weight.”
Kraus told her sixth graders that it took years for her to get over the incident and explained how important it is to treat each other with respect.
“I’m energized by my students,” Kraus said. “They all have greatness inside of them whether they see it or not.”
Kraus grew up in Downers Grove, attending the local schools. She graduated from Illinois State University in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in junior high/middle school education, with a specialization in language arts and social studies.
The following year, Kraus began her teaching career as a sixth grade instructor at Gregory Middle School in Naperville. In 1999, she left teaching to raise a family.
Krause eased back into the profession from 2006 to 2009 as a substitute with Oswego SD308, teaching language arts and social studies classes, as well as science and reading classes when needed.
“I want may students to continue to find a love for reading, for whatever the purpose.”— Heather Krause, Bednarick Junior High School sixth grade language arts teacher
This led to a full-time teaching post at Southbury Elementary School in Oswego, where she taught fourth and fifth grades from 2009 to 2017, before joining the staff at Bednarcik.
For Kraus, learning is a lifelong endeavor and she was a classroom student again while still teaching at Southbury.
She earned a master’s of education in literacy from Elgin’s Judson University in 2013 and received her doctorate in the same subject from Judson in 2021.
Kraus regularly meets with parents and guardians to discuss their childrens’ progress.
“Parents should have conversations with their kids about what they are reading,” Kraus said. “I want my students to continue to find a love for reading, for whatever the purpose.”
Kraus reviews book ‘Ghost’ that is read aloud in class
Editor’s note: We asked Bednarcik Junior High School language arts teacher Heather Kraus to write a review of a book that she teaches in her sixth grade class. Here is her review:
For the past several years, one of the books that we have chosen to read aloud to our sixth graders is “Ghost” by Jason Reynolds. It is always a student favorite and it is filled with multiple opportunities for teachable moments in language arts.
“Ghost” is a realistic fiction novel about seventh grader Castle Cranshaw, also known as Ghost.
Ghost struggles with some demons from his past and some heavy anger issues, but it is the demons that he credits for his natural running talent. As Ghost happens upon a track practice one day, his curiosity gets the best of him, and he finds himself running as part of a team.
Throughout the novel, Ghost must learn to face a multitude of challenges while discovering what true friendship and belonging mean.
Readers connect with Ghost’s challenges, his desire to face and overcome hard things, and his determination to be the “world’s best” at something.
Educationally, we use the book to discuss social-emotional issues, character analysis, and story/plot development.
The biggest benefit of reading “Ghost,” however, is that students walk away enjoying a book for the simple pleasure of reading a good story and the desire to read the next book in the series, “Patina,” because they absolutely cannot believe the cliffhanger ending.