RULTR8? This teacher is

Published 11:12 pm Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Laurie Christensen has many loves.

A look around her classroom in a mobile unit at Forest Glen Middle School makes it apparent she likes cats. Lions, tigers and wildcats (the FGMS mascot) are everywhere in the room.

However, one must look a little deeper to see some of her other loves – the shelves of books, grammar posters and even her license plate – which reads “RULTR8” (Are you literate?) – all represent her passion for teaching, reading, writing and students.

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It all started when Christensen, who was just named the Suffolk Reading Teacher of the Year, was a child.

“I always loved to read,” she said. “I was a quiet child, and I would fall into the books.”

Throughout the years, Christensen became more outgoing, but her love of reading, writing and the English language only grew. However, she became increasingly frustrated with English teachers who called her interpretations of literature “wrong.”

“I decided if I ever taught, I would talk about the books and not say, “No, you’re wrong,’” she said.

Now that she is a teacher, Christensen is following through on her promise to herself.

“You’ve got to be more positive,” she said.

Christensen primarily teaches eighth-graders, which she says is a fun age.

“They’re almost like an adult, but not quite,” she said. “They still accept some of that fun stuff.”

“The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton, “Miracle’s Boys” by Jacqueline Woodson and “Night” by Elie Wiesel frequently make Christensen’s assigned reading list.

Christensen was chosen for the City-Wide Reading Teacher of the Year honor from among the school-level reading teachers of the year. The Christopher Newport University grad, who has taught with Suffolk Public Schools for five years, will now be considered for the Virginia State Reading Council recognition.

Although she’s honored, Christensen said any teacher in the entire district could easily have won the award.

“I will continue to remind my fellow teachers that they are all reading teachers,” Christensen said in a statement. “All teachers teach reading.”

Christensen’s passion for reading and literacy keeps her going, she said.

“Reading is such a key part of life,” she said. “You just drive down the road and you’ve got to be able to read the signs.”

Speaking of driving down the road, Christensen’s license plate inspires a lot of people, she said.

“It’s really cool,” she said. “It’s a conversation starter. I’m trying to get people to enjoy reading.”