In sixth grade my family moved to Brooklyn, New York, less than two blocks from the boardwalk and beach. My parents still live there today. I love to visit and walk the boardwalk. After graduating from Boston University, I stayed in Massachusetts. I married Mark, the guy I knew from high school, and we moved north of Boston. Five years later, I had my little daughter Dara, who is a bigger Dara today...and who continues to fascinate me and teach me new things all the time.
When I was young, school meant the world to me. I was nervous about tests and always wanted to do well. My mom tells me I ripped up a lot of homework assignments until I thought it was right. I knew since first grade that I wanted to be a teacher. In November after the year I graduated college, I got my first teaching job in Derry, New Hampshire and taught fourth grade there for thirty-five years. I retired in June 2009. I supervised student teachers for Rivier College for one term after retirement, and now mostly work on my writing, and do exercise and yoga almost every day. Retirement also gave me the opportunity to dog-sit for a friend. Since I never had a pet before, this was such a sweet experience to become a dog-lover as an adult.
I've had a few wonderful honors over the years related to teaching. Six students have nominated me to be in "Who's Who Among America's Teachers", and I was also nominated for the DisneyHand Teaching Awards. (I went through the lengthy application process twice, but didn't win, though I was just happy to be nominated, once by a student and once by the Parent Teacher Association.) And one very scary time, I had to go through a personal interview in front of a panel of people for New Hampshire Teacher of the Year. I was a semifinalist. It always feels great when someone appreciates your hard work. I LOVED teaching, and I expected the children in my class to give me their all.
Just after the fourth of July in the summer of 2002, I began writing a children's picture book on the beach on the only paper available, post-its! It was like an alien took over my body, as I walked to the car to get the post-its and a pen. I had never wanted to write a book before, and hadn't planned on writing one that day. Many books later(over 60 now), I'm still loving the process of writing. I now keep paper EVERYWHERE...especially near my bed where I wake sometimes to write down a sentence or new idea for a book. I realize it's a different way for me to talk to and teach kids.
I joined the professional writing association, SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and I'm now in four critique groups. That's where people give their suggestions of how to make your story better. It wasn't so easy at first to hear that my stories weren't perfect. But I got used to it. Now I know that nobody writes alone. Everyone needs feedback and editors to help them write their best work possible.
I have a Masters degree in reading and language, and have participated in many literature related workshops and courses. I used picture books for years, to read to students to help them understand a new concept or reinforce something we studied, whether it was math, health, social studies, or science. I didn't even realize I was doing the prep work to becoming an author...which is to read, read, and read some more.
Carol Gordon Ekster
Author and Educator