I have admired Debbie Gonzales since our first meeting in Austin, where she handled a tricky situation with such grace and charm I wanted to nominate her for an ambassadorship right then and there! Lucky for the folks in Michigan, she’s brought her warmth and energy to the Mitten State; she and I caught up a bit at nErDCampMI last summer and I invited her to chat a bit about the amazing educator guides she creates. I can speak to how terrific they are from personal experience as she has designed a combination guide for Audacity Jones to the Rescue and Audacity Jones Steals the Show (you can check it out here: AUDACITY JONES educators guide).
You’ve made well over 200 Educator Guides for a wide range of ages and genres. No two guides are alike! Wow! Where do you get all your ideas?
Though I studied special education as an undergrad, I primarily pull from my Montessori background, which is rich in hands-on, project-based science, math, history, writing, and reading lessons and materials. In Montessori, we’re trained to observe a child and then design learning experiences based on their needs. I suppose I do the same thing when working with a book. Read it. Spend time assessing my observations. Then create hands-on, project-based learning experiences designed to enhance the story’s needs.
Tell us about your experience creating a dual guide for the Audacity Jones books.
Oh, my goodness. Talk about richness of content. Adorable characters. Fast-paced, intriguing plotlines. Thematic depth. All founded on fascinating historical events. Kirby, you gave me so much fodder to work with, I had to force myself top stop making activities! I had such fun creating the projects, puzzles, and, most especially, the magic trick included in the guide. My hope is that, whether by constructing a historical timeline or making paper dolls dressed in vintage clothing, your lucky readers will come to know Audacity and her wonderful world in a more intimate way.
How can a person evaluate the quality of an Educator Guide? What makes one guide better than another?
I think the best guides are created with the busy teacher and/or librarian in mind. Project and activities need to be easily downloadable. These folks have no time to waste. A guide should make their jobs as easy as possible. Discussion questions should be stated in a rhetorical fashion to encourage critical thinking and personal engagement, giving kids opportunities demonstrate their understanding of the content. Simple “yes” or “no” answers just won’t do. I use citations from the book to document quotes and vocabulary activities. Searching for citations keep the books in the kids’ hands, which is the goal of a guide, right?
When you’re not busy making Educator Guides, what other things are you up to?
The guide crafting business keeps me very busy, that’s for sure. And, I love it! However, I’m thrilled to say that Charlesbridge will be publishing my debut, non-fiction picture book – Play Like a Girl: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records – in 2019. It’s the history of the female athlete from the first Olympic games to present day, and it encompasses the passage of Title IX. So, of late, I’ve been learning all I can about online marketing techniques to prepare for the launch. Even though the pub date seems a long way off, there are plenty of tasks to take care of now. Plus, I have a few other projects in the pipeline, too. I promise to keep you posted as things progress.
Debbie Gonzales is a career educator, curriculum consultant, former school administrator and adjunct professor, and once served as a SCBWI RA for the Austin Chapter. Deb currently devotes her time to writing middle grade novels, crafting teacher guides and various other freelance projects. She’s the author of six “transitional” readers for New Zealand publisher, Giltedge, and the forthcoming non-fiction picture book Play Like a Girl: The Road to Breaking Barriers and Bashing Records (Charlesbridge, 2019). A transplanted Texan, Debbie now calls beautiful Ann Arbor, Michigan home where she lives with her husband John and spunky pup, Missy. Deb earned her MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Learn more at her website by clicking here.