Wirtz (Reading Champs, 2014) reflects on an accomplished career as a teacher and warmly remembers the ups and downs of family life.
The author enjoyed a diverse career serving as the seminar leader for the California School Boards Association, a principal and curriculum consultant, an English teacher in the Arizona and California penal systems, and an activist for literacy. She shares her happiest remembrances as a teacher, which almost always revolve around her students, for whom she expresses unabashed affection. She also discusses a broad spectrum of educational issues, including the value of homework, the benefits of speed-reading, the protection of transgender students, and the threat posed by school shootings, among many others. With equal enthusiasm, she discusses her life as a wife, mother, and grandmother and the lessons she’s drawn from each role. She’s suffered her share of personal tribulations—she survived a bout with cancer and had to reshape her life after the death of her husband, William. However, the book is less a linear memoir than an assemblage of essays and “brief staccato-like stories,” as she puts it, and it reads like a selection of journal entries that are candid, informal, and liberated from formal structure. The author freely roams wherever her mind takes her, jumping seamlessly from the personal to the professional. As a result, the whole work has an appealingly homespun character to it, and she proffers sensible, if sometimes-banal, counsel: “Striving for excellence is the only way to go, and being a champion does not come overnight.” The tone of the work is delightfully buoyant, though, and Wirtz’s prose can have a cheerleading quality: “We are Teachers. We are strong and mighty!” The education-related essays should be edifying to other teachers, as Wirtz’s experience and expertise are beyond reproach. However, the personal reminiscences are somewhat less engaging and will probably appeal most to her closest family members and friends.
An astute collection of educational essays coupled with introspective reflections.