Patti Nantz

Students in Patti Nantz’s third- and fourth-grade combined classroom at Crosspoint Christian School in Villa Ridge were laughing and smiling as they pulled on scrubs to prepare for a morning assignment — an information text surgery.

Their patients: copies of The Missourian.

With scissors in hand and covers in place over their heads and feet, like a real medical team, the students began their surgeries by reading the newspaper’s headlines, stories, advertisements and photo captions looking for the information listed on a series of task cards:

Locate the Classified section and find an ad that is requesting something. Give details.

Local the movie guide. List a movie and record its rating.

What section of the newspaper would you find the weather? Pick a day and record the high and low temperature.

Locate a column in the newspaper. Record the name of the columnist.

Locate a photo. “Read” the photo. Answer the questions who, what, where, when and why.

Locate an advertisement. Write three things you learned from the ad.

Write an opinion statement from an article. Record the article’s headline.

Nantz smiled too as the students turned pages of the paper, reading, discussing, questioning, thinking . . . before filling in the answers on their worksheets.

This is not a new assignment for Nantz. She has used it with classes before. But the addition of scrubs was new, and although there was a little bit of extra time needed for the students to get into their gowns and caps, it was worth it, said Nantz.

“It gets the students even more excited about the assignment, especially the Monday after a holiday weekend, like Thanksgiving,” she said, noting that her brother, who is a paramedic, was able to get the scrubs donated to the classroom.

That kind of out-of-the-box thinking is what elevates Nantz to be the 2017 Missourian In Education Teacher of the Year.

“Patti is an outstanding educator who incorporates so many aspects of our Missourian In Education program into her teaching,” said Dawn Kitchell, educational services director for The Missourian. “From using the newspaper in her classroom in creative and exciting ways, to promoting a love of reading with the Book Buzz program, she is teaching students to be strong readers connected to their community, savvy news consumers and good writers.

“Patti is the kind of teacher we all wish we could have and a tremendous Missourian In Education teacher, and we’re very excited to recognize her this year,” Kitchell said.

Nantz has been using The Missourian in her classroom for 10 years or more, not just because of how popular it is with the students and how excited it gets them about an assignment, but because of the lessons that it offers.

“They are learning that the newspaper is for reading in a different way than you would read a book,” she said.

“It helps them think critically. It helps them be on a task of searching for information and helps them to establish their own opinions.”

The class had been talking just that morning about knowing the purpose behind what you are reading — to persuade, inform or entertain.

“And they found all of that in the newspaper. It’s all of those things,” said Nantz.

“The Missourian and Book Buzz program have been a great extension to my teaching,” Nantz said. “It offers a different approach and captures their attention because it is filled with material that helps make connections to self, other text, and world.”

For Lessons and for Fun

Nantz uses The Missourian for English lesson on parts of speech, reading lessons on finding the main idea, math lessons, writing lessons . . . .

She had plans for students to take headlines from the newspaper and use them as inspiration to write their own stories.

“Reading articles has now segued into students writing articles for our class newsletter that is sent home to parents twice each month — another way we ‘read to learn,’ ” said Nantz.

In addition to using the articles in the newspaper for subject lessons, Nantz also makes use of the various education features, like Kids Scoop, found inside the newspaper throughout the school year.

“We have used the serial stories for the last two years. We saved all of the chapters for ‘Night at the Capitol,’ and then took a field trip to Jeff City!” said Nantz.

The students also enjoy looking through and reading the newspaper in their free reading time — especially searching for familiar Crosspoint faces or other people they know, Nantz said.

Book Buzz Believer

Every school year, Nantz’s classroom consistently submits reviews on books for The Missourian’s Book Buzz program, which recommends three books a month and invites students to write reviews of them, one of which is featured in the newspaper for each book.

Nantz has had Missourian Book Editor and Book Buzz Coordinator Chris Stuckenschneider visit her classroom to talk about book reviews and what it’s like to be a published author.

“They just think she’s a star,” Nantz remarked.

Writing Book Buzz reviews has been a great way to make a natural reading/writing connection for the students, said Nantz.

She sometimes has the students write reviews for a class assignment or for extra credit, but she also encourages them to do it just for fun or because it’s good writing practice.

“They can’t wait to see whose review gets picked to be in the paper, who has been chosen,” Nantz said, with a smile. “But they also see the online version, so even if theirs isn’t in the newspaper, they see it online, which is exciting for them too.”

Nantz often reads the monthly Book Buzz Picks to her students and has a bookshelf in her classroom devoted to those titles.

Stuckenschneider said Nantz’s enthusiasm for the Book Buzz program is uplifting to see, but it’s also rewarding for her students.

“They’re excellent writers, because of Patti’s instruction,” Stuckenschneider wrote last year in a column about Nantz. “She helps them understand the difference between a book report and a book review — her students add their personal take on the book they review, in addition to a brief synopsis of the story.

“I’d like to multiply Patti about a hundred times over.”

The reason Stuckenschneider wrote the column last year was a new twist Nantz had brought to the program at Crosspoint. She bought two bee costumes so that a couple of her students could dress up for a special story time where they read books to students in younger grades.

Nantz’s students select the book they want to read, and then they have to practice reading it out loud at least three times.

“So that they are working on their expression, their fluency, keeping little ones engaged in the story — those things that we as teachers want from them,” said Nantz.

Her students also must come up with at least one question to prompt the younger students to get them involved with the story.

“They are our junior teachers,” she said, with a smile.

She loves it, and so do her students, who eagerly volunteer to be bee readers.

“I like reading to the kids, and when I read to them, I like seeing the smiles on their faces and they get excited. And I like asking them questions. I love their answers,” one boy said.

Recognizing Good Teachers

As the 2017 Missourian In Education Teacher of the Year, Nantz will receive a $100 award, a one-year home subscription to The Missourian, and a framed copy of this feature story.

The Missourian has been recognizing a Missourian In Education Teacher of the Year since 2003. Kitchell said it’s another way to recognize good teaching.

“Our Missourian In Education award recognizes teachers who use the newspaper in great ways, but I believe you won’t find a teacher who uses the newspaper who isn’t a great teacher,” Kitchell said. “So we’re recognizing some of the most outstanding teachers in our area communities.”

This year, more than 80 teachers in 43 area schools are participating in the Missourian In Education program. With help from community partners and sponsors, The Missourian is delivering thousands of student newspapers every week at no cost to the teachers or schools.

Inside the newspaper so far this year, students have learned about news literacy, STEM, the Constitution and Veterans Day.

Students also have been honing skills in comprehension, skimming, scanning and restating though the weekly Missourian In Education News Quiz posted online each Monday. Each week students win gift certificates to local restaurants like Imo’s Pizza and Sugarfire Smoke House for taking the News Quiz.

In January, The Missourian will publish the annual Reading Across Missouri serialized story. This year’s story is about Kali, the polar bear at the Saint Louis Zoo. The author, Carolyn Mueller, will visit Washington when the story gets under way in the newspaper.

The Missourian’s annual community Family Reading Night will be held Friday, March 2, at Washington Middle School. The guest author will be Brian Biggs, sharing his book, “Tinyville Town Gets to Work” about a town that builds a new bridge.

And The Bee 2018, the eighth annual regional spelling competition organized by The Missourian and sponsored by hth companies will be held Saturday, April 21, at East Central College.

Teachers of the Year

Previous Missourian In Education Teachers of the Year include:

2003 — Lauri Link, Gerald Elementary.

2004 — Jennifer Hawkins, Edgar Murray School, St. Clair.

2005 — Sister Pat Gloriod, St. Vincent de Paul, Dutzow.

2006 — Jennifer Wirthwein, Washington Middle School.

2007 — Wynn Scheer, Fifth Street Elementary, Washington.

2008 — Ann Joyce, Our Lady of Lourdes, Washington.

2009 — Maria Kerr, Franklin County Special Education Cooperative, St. Clair.

2010 — Joan Obermark, Clearview Elementary, Washington.

2011 — Sheila Grgurich, St. John the Baptist-Gildehaus, Villa Ridge.

2012 — Linda Sentivany, Washington Middle School.

2013 — Karen Brinkmann, Beaufort Elementary School.

2014 — Angela Hopkins, Campbellton Elementary.

2015 — Mike Brusca, Washington West Elementary.

2016 — Heather Suerig, Autumn Hill State School.

The Missourian In Education program is available to teachers in all communities served by The Missourian. Classroom newspaper subscriptions are provided at no cost to educators, thanks to support from community partners. The Missourian also provides training and curriculum at no cost.

Parents and educators can find resources on emissourian.com and can follow the Missourian In Education Facebook page for updates, book reviews and other literacy-related news. For more information on The Missourian’s educational outreach efforts, contact Kitchell at kitchelld@emissourian.com.