Harp Brooke

Brooke Harp of Rockford is in her sixth year of teaching. She teaches literature to middle schoolers at Holy Family Catholic School. In a student nomination, we read, “Miss Harp is a great teacher because she makes all of her students feel comfortable with her, she lets us do fun activities and supports us, she can get us to laugh if we are having a bad day, and she makes me motivated to read.” Colleague Sarah Fey is also the parent of current and former students of Harp. She recommended Harp, writing that as “a literature teacher, Ms. Harp inspires her students to love to read and to read with passion. Her expectations are high; the students work diligently to achieve her goals.” Harp believes that “viewing my students in the context of their own individual stories rather than just as the next student here for schooling affects my students for the better. Treating them as individuals allows them to feel comfortable enough in the classroom to focus on their studies and do their best. I also strive to challenge, monitor and manage their learning, so they reach high standards and expectations.” Just as she gets to know the students individually, Harp also tries to relate to their parents as individuals. She asks them about their children’s interests, background, learning habits as well as about their own preferred communication styles, cultures and interests. Harp attends a lot of extracurricular events such as games, plays, service projects and Scholastic Bowl meets. Showing students and their families how invested she is in them tends to boost family cooperation and participation in their children’s education. To present options for students to tackle that help them feel in control, yet also allows them to demonstrate their level of understanding in the manner that works best for them, Harp created a book report assignment that looks a bit different. It was presented in the form of a menu. “Each quarter, students choose and complete one of many options from each category (appetizer, side dish, main course, dessert, and specials). The appetizers focus on defining and finding examples of figurative language. The side dish, main course and dessert all focus on different literary elements and in-depth analysis of the plot. The specials are where the students show their understanding of the book in a more creative way.” Classroom observers liked how she posed questions at stop points during a read-aloud session that elicited analytical responses. They noticed her use several different techniques to engage a variety of learning styles. Observers also noted that her classroom environment was warm and structured. “The teacher brings in warmth and fun while keeping students focused and on task.” She also provides a great deal of positive reinforcement to her students. Ultimately, Harp wants to “help my students write the best stories for their lives that they can.” She says, “Although I have a passion for reading and I love the stories we read about in class, my favorite stories are those from the students sitting in the desks of my classroom.”