I wasn’t planning on doing another giveaway so soon after doing one for Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire, but I just finished reading this charming book and wanted to share it with you. Besides, with kids returning to school, this is the perfect time for this.

Phillip Done has been an elementary-school teacher for over 20 years. In Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood, he tells true tales of the kids he’s taught, everyday children who make you laugh one minute and crush your heart the next. Done (rhymes with “phone”) writes in an uncluttered, self-deprecating way which makes this a fast, easy read but one which stays with you. There’s one kid in particular—Michael, nicknamed Angel—whose story kicked me in the gut and made me cry like, well, a third-grader.

I’m giving away three copies of this book, courtesy of Hachette Book Group. If you’d like to enter my random drawing, you just have to:

  • Be a subscriber and/or follower on Twitter (both isn’t necessary)
  • Leave a comment telling me about your favorite teacher and why that person is memorable
  • Be a U.S. or Canada resident, no P.O. Boxes

I’ll take entrants until 9 p.m. PST, September 14. Hachette will mail books directly to winners. Good luck!



  • Reply
    September 4, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Yay! I’m the first one here!!!

    My favorite teacher was actually a camp counselor. Her name was Sarah and she taught me rowing at an Episcopalian church camp called Bishop’s Wood in Maine.

    She was overweight and fugly and I was a pimply, me-against-the- world teen who didn’t want to be there. We spent long Summer hours in an ancient rowboat on a lake that shifted its powerful current against me whenever I put my hands on the oars. I think I still have blisters from the experience!

    I listened intently to everything she said while I rowed every inch of that lake. It got so that I knew instinctively when the current would shift and how to angle the bow just right for that place where the waves would try to knock us off course. My arms grew strong and my nervous system became calmer. And I listened. Sarah was a good soul. Sure she had her own problems, but she focused on me and drew me out of my shell. Sarah taught me about life and girls. She told me things were going to be okay as long as I remembered that very few things were worth the attention I gave them and no matter the weather tomorrow, it would be another day which would provide me a chance to view things differently. And that, even the toughest current or wave would eventually pass.

    It was exactly what I needed to hear back then, especially from someone who wasn’t a parent or a sibling. That rowboat remains one of my favorite classrooms ever.

    Back on land, Sarah taught me to dance to rock-n-roll. She turned me on to Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water, Three Dog Night and the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar. (which really pissed off the nuns!) She taught my nervous and shy teenage self to really let go on the dance floor and in life as well.

    I didn’t want to go church camp at all. In fact, I kicked and screamed the whole way there, but six weeks later, I didn’t want to leave. Dad had to wrestle me into the car.

    It was one of the best times of my life and I still remember Sarah. Never kept in touch with her and don’t know what happened to her, but her mark on me remains indelible.

  • Reply
    September 4, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Sadly, I’m disqualified from the get go… Think I gotta move to the States, don’t I? LOL. Anyway, I’d love to share all about my favourite teacher(s). Although I have a few who’ve made a change in my life (two of my Lit teachers, my Calculus and two of my History professors), I think the most relevant one would be my English teacher.

    She wasn’t really my teacher until 12th grade, but she was the English coordinator. She’s a Lit major (Licenciada en Letras) and a single mom -her two daughters are the coolest!- with hair like a curly Itt Addams.

    When I was in 10th grade I became obsessed with Models United Nations. That year we started the MUN program in our highschool and she became the coordinator. And she was the most supportive person in the whole world. She managed to keep the courses going on and to visit us at every debate session. We geeks who took the challenge in the English committees were awarded with an extra point -as long as we fulfilled our class and homework-.

    On 12th grade -when she became my English teacher-, she encouraged me to become Secretary General for the MUN -even though I was majoring in BioChemical sciences- and supported me wholeheartedly when I became overwhelmed with the task (She might be one of the reasons I have a decent English).

    She taught (and re-taught) me quite a lot of things:

    * It’s cool if your favourite film is The Lion King (hers is)… it doesn’t make you any less intelligent.
    * When you think you are being yourself… you’re not. Just be yourself, don’t think, and you’ll know it.
    * Laughter can be more powerful than tears. A good joke can ease the worst of pressures.
    * Hakuna Matata. There’s only one two things you can do with your past: treasure it, and learn from it. Then you let go.
    * When you struggle to make an impression you’ll be forgotten. You’ll only be remembered when you are yourself.

    She left me a few words (in writing) which I keep very close, and read whenever in doubt, where she told me I made much of an impression on her as she did on me.

    She’s just an amazing person.

  • Reply
    September 4, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    This one is an easy trip on the ol’ way back machine of my mind, PCN. She was my 7th grade history teacher in Junior High. Japanese-American, 4’10” in heels (shortest person in a class of 11-12 year olds), easily the smartest person on the teaching staff, and had such a command/bearing over any class or student in the entire school. She was mesmerizing! Patton had nothing on this woman. Never derogatory or mean – she didn’t have to be to hold you in her spell. She commanded and earned the respect of any student lucky to be in her class (whether they knew it at the time or not). She was special… I’d have marched off to war for that woman, if she asked. Luckily for me, all she wanted was your attention and your desire to learn.

  • Reply
    Shelley P
    September 5, 2009 at 5:32 am

    Those are lovely recollections – very inspiring! Good luck, all.

    I’m glad I can’t enter anyway, because the best I can come up with is that I was ever so happy with one of my teachers for putting me in the crummiest of the netball teams as a reserve, so I never had to play but it allowed me to escape the mandatory sports afternoon at school for those not involved with inter-school sports. It meant a lot to me to be able to avoid organised sport. And I never found another teacher like her, though I tried.

  • Reply
    Pop Culture Nerd
    September 5, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Wow. Like Shelley P said, this is all very inspiring.

    EIREGO, some of the best lessons we learn happen outside the classroom. Sounds like you got quite an education that summer.

    Poncho, I agree with your teacher about The Lion King—it offers some valuable nuggets of wisdom (Rafiki bonking young Simba on the head. Simba: “Ow!” Rafiki: “It’s in the past!”). You were lucky to have such a staunch supporter in your endeavors.

    LP13, your teacher sounds badass! I love how she refused to let her small stature make her a small person.

    Shelley P, I wish I had your teacher. I hated sports in school, too. No one ever picked me in kickball or passed to me in basketball. I did enjoy floor hockey, though my shins would be shredded by other people’s sticks.

  • Reply
    Nancye Davis
    September 6, 2009 at 10:24 am

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    My favorite teacher was my 9th grade Pre-Algebra teacher, Mr. Fox. Up until that time I understand math at all. He took the time to really teach us. I finally “got it”. He opened up a whole new world to me. Math finally made sense to me.

    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

  • Reply
    September 6, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Great stories everyone! While I’ve had several memorable teachers in my youth and even a few nightmare-inducing scary nuns in my catholic school experience, I have to say one of my favorite teachers of all time was coincidentally the 3rd grade teacher of my oldest son Zach. Hard to believe that at one time our 6 foot 15-year-old extrovert (putting it mildly) was ever a small and shy little boy. But, while in Mrs. Steven’s 3rd grade class he was just that. So small and shy in fact that he could never bring himself to play ball with the other boys because sports was not one of his strengths. Yes, he was the proverbial “last boy to get picked on the team.” Happy to avoid the situation, Zach decided to forgo football and basketball to instead play handball with the girls. Since girls are still “gross” in 3rd grade, the picking and unrelenting teasing came quickly. School soon became torture for Zach until Mrs. Stevens noticed his change from a carefree, happy little boy boy to one that withdrew from activities and hated the thought of recess and lunch break. Finding out the truth behind his change, she became his personal crusader. She immediately devoted a whole life lesson plan to the importance of being unique and how excluding others because they were different was hurtful and robbed you of sharing their talents. She made Zach the star of the lesson. All the kids benefited and the experience gave Zach a new found respect of teachers and love for school. (And perhaps his first teacher crush) The teasing stopped and Zach made new friends in the weeks after his star role.
    Although that was the first time she taught that lesson, it is one she now includes as part of her curriculum.
    Over the years I have often seen Mrs. Stevens at the grade school as we have two kids still attending and she always takes the time to stop and ask how Zach is doing. She stands in my heart as one of my favorite teachers for helping my shy little boy walk out of the shadows and shine in the light.

  • Reply
    Pop Culture Nerd
    September 6, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Nancye, your comment reminded me of my own 5th-grade teacher, Mrs. Williams. I hated math, too, but she insisted I had a knack for it and put me in an accelerated program against my wishes. Many years later, I can figure out percentages and multiply fractions and decimals freakishly fast in my head. I still hate math but it has proven to be a useful skill and I’m glad Mrs. Williams pushed me on the subject.

    Ybnormal, Mrs. Stevens sounds like an angel. I can relate only too well to Zach’s experiences in grade school (I weighed only about 50 lbs. in 4th grade, wore glasses, didn’t speak English well, you get the picture). Wish I had someone like Mrs. Stevens to watch over me. How lucky for you and Zach to have her in your lives.

    These are amazing stories, everyone. Please keep sending them in because I have 3 copies of the book to give away.

  • Reply
    Math Games
    September 20, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Hi. I am a Middle School Math Teacher and I created a NCTM recognized free onlinemath games site:

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