El Pato Carlos finally arrived at Teacher’s Discovery and he is sure tomake a lot of teachers happy! Carlos is featured in a very easy-to-read book which offers lots of engaging activities to get students learning and enjoying Spanish. .
“Ana Siquiera’s interpretation of the Duck song is super cute, perfect for novice learners and engaging for all ages. This would be a great addition to a theme on food and/or emotions, or as part of a FVR classroom library!” Julie Speno
Check here a quick BookTrailer
How did I get this idea?
One day, when I was teaching Spanish at St. Paul’s Clearwater Independent School. My third graders asked me if I could create a story based on the super viral video “The Duck Song.” We watched it together and I loved it. It was the perfect video to teach some super verbs in Spanish.
So, I asked authorization from the songwriter- Bryantt Oden – and prepared some Powerpoint slides to outline the story. The kids loved it and in the end they could share the story in Spanish.
Then, I thought, “What if I could write a book about the same?”
And, with Bryantt Oden’s authorization, I wrote the book. Since I do love using Comprehensible Input to teach Spanish and use this input when asking questions to my students, I also included some tables that can be used to ask questions and guide instruction on certain topics, should the teacher want additional resources.
I went to Teacher’s Discovery and I saw a place to submit proposals. I submitted my proposal with samples of illustrations done by an amazing illustrator from Argentina, Adriana Cinefuentes.
To my surprise, an hour later I got an email from Steve Giroux stating he would be interested in speaking to me further about the project.
And now, one year later, my book has been published.
Ideas/Resources for Teachers and Writers when talking about a book
Jennifer Degenhardt, B.A., M.Ed., taught middle and high school Spanish for 24 years. She began writing when students in her classes were not “buying in” to the traditional textbook lessons. With the first story she wrote, Jennifer found that her students were more engaged, both with the language and in class in general. While her books highlight cultural, social, economic and political themes necessary for continued conversation, both in- and out of the classroom, all of them deal with identity to some degree and how important it is to know who you are. Jennifer is passionate about helping students learn more about themselves through storytelling and writing and is currently sharing this passion with her students at the college level at UCONN Stamford.
Living in Bolivia, without knowing Spanish!!!
In 1985-1986 I was an exchange student in high school. I traveled to Cochabamba, Bolivia and lived and studied there. I knew about five words of Spanish before I left (I had studied French for five years – of course!), so while I had a foundation in romance language grammar, I really had no idea what was going on. And, back in those days, the emphasis in language learning was more on grammar and writing and less on speaking, so by going to Bolivia, I was immersed for sure! It took about three months before I could have a decent conversation. Fortunately I had a LOT of input!
Her Biggest Achievement as a Teenager in Cochabamba.
My biggest achievement happened in the market. My host mom sold shoes 👠👟👞 at la Cancha, the biggest outdoor market (then, at least) in Cochabamba. One day she left me to tend to her stall – alone. As you can imagine, there is a lot of bargaining that goes on in these businesses – and I barely knew the prices of the shoes, never mind how to bargain. One day a young family came by to purchase a pair of black patent leather shoes for their daughter – a shoe price I knew! Luckily, I told them the price and they just paid – without haggling! I was beaming that I sold the shoes, of course, and the other shoe sellers in the area were also VERY proud!✨
Using Spanish as a Tool to Inspire and Connect with Students.
I have been a Spanish teacher for over 25 years. (After 20 I stopped counting!) For most of my career I taught high school, but I also taught middle school for a couple of years. Now I am teaching college level beginning and intermediate courses.
The best moments of my teaching career have very little to do with Spanish and much more to do with the students whom I’ve taught. I have realized that, for me, teaching Spanish is simply the tool I use to connect with students. Of course I want them to learn language, but I also want them to WANT to learn it and to realize that communicating in another language is as easy as opening one’s mouth!
Giving Students a Chance to Grow, at their own pace.
My favorite story is about a boy who was new to my class his junior year. The rest of the students had been with me for the previous two years so whatever they knew (or didn’t!) was from what they gleaned in my class. Anthony was a transfer student from another school, had learning challenges and was socially promoted from the level before. He knew his skills were not as advanced as those of his peers and he began to act out in class. When I pulled him aside one day for a conversation, I simply asked what was going on. “I stink at Spanish,” he said. Looking at him with a big smile, I replied, “Yes, besides the obvious, I mean!” We laughed and I gave him some strategies to participate more in class in order to build his confidence. Once he got rid of the chip on his shoulder and began to participate, he realized he knew more than he thought. Anthony went on to turn around his academic performance (and not only in my class!) for the rest of his high school career. Sure, I gave him a chance, but I gave him a chance for him to give himself a chance. Those are the best memories for me, watching students grow.
Worst Moments in Her Teaching Career
The worst moments of my teaching career have little to do with students (though there WAS that one Spanish 5 class that didn’t want to do ANYTHING!). As a creative teacher, I am challenged by rules of any kind and there seem to be A LOT of them in education. Standards and rubrics and benchmarks, oh my. I understand in theory why they exist, but for me, they don’t serve. Those are the worst. The worst!
Why She Started Writing Novels – Very Inspirational
Five years ago I had two classes of learning challenged students. They were not progressing with Spanish and our relationship was being tested. I knew they weren’t having a good time (and quite frankly, neither was I). I’m not really sure how I came up with the idea, but I thought a story with which they could relate would be a better vehicle for language delivery. Not surprisingly, those particular groups of students were behaviorally tough as well. I knew I was onto something when they settled down a bit, but the real indicator was when one particularly difficult girl asked me, “What’s going to happen in the next chapter?” Win!
The First Novel
That first novel I wrote is called La chica nueva. What I did was take all of the grammar and vocabulary that I was to deliver to the students (from the archaic textbook) and put it in the storyline. It made much more sense to the students – and to me.
I love writing these books! I am so happy to be able to highlight topics in my books that I felt were not given importance in the traditional curriculum where I was teaching; All of my books have both social and cultural elements, but are not heavy-handed. There is just enough information to present issues on a basic level to allow for a conversation to occur, either amongst students or even outside the classroom. I really feel that having a little bit of knowledge of other cultures will help in connecting people at a time when we need more connecting.
Teaching With Novels
I love teaching with a novel. I first started with the novels in the high school classroom years ago with the Blaine Ray series. I liked that there was a storyline to follow to connect one day’s lesson to the next and that it allowed for conversation outside of the story itself. Those books were great at the time I was using them and really turned me on to how to incorporate novels into my teaching. Later on I started writing my own, and using my students as beta readers.
The other thing I like about teaching a novel is that it can be the lesson or just part of the lesson. With my books, I like to incorporate just enough culture and social issues to drive the conversation beyond what’s going on in the book. I have found that students want to express themselves about the plot and characters, but they also want to talk about issues. Novels are a great way for them to start: first with what’s going on in the book and then how that can relate to their own lives.
Tips on Writing your Own Books
With regards to writing your own book, my advice is simple: write. If you think it is a compelling story, chances are good that students will too. Maybe your first draft will be just that, a draft, but just like speaking a second language: if there isn’t and production (speaking or writing), there is no communication.
Self-publishing has become very easy. I might start with TpT (Teachers Pay Teachers) if you’re apprehensive about going full-bore with a self-publishing platform like KDP or IngramSpark. Many teachers with whom I’ve chatted about publishing have asked how to do it, but really what they were asking (seemingly) was for permission and encouragement. Here it is: just do it! It’s fun! And write for yourself/your classes first. Do not be worried about what others think – it’s a waste of energy!!
Jennifer inspired me and talked to me when I was writing my story. My first book has just been published by Teacher’s Discovery, check it here.
Her Life as a Girl
I live with three four-leggeds, a dog and two cats, Dave, Bart and Wally in southwestern Connecticut. They are always pretty close by when I’m writing (sometimes too close!), so I consider them co-authors. When I’m not writing or teaching, I’m either in or on the water. I love to swim and paddleboard. It is there that I work out a lot of the plot issues for my books. I also work out regularly too. I have taken to powerlifting at a local gym and I just started running again. (There is no plot resolution when I’m running, though, I have to concentrate on not dying!)
Going Around the World
In my life I have been very fortunate to travel a lot. I was first bitten (and smitten!) by the travel bug when I was an exchange student to Bolivia in high school. Since then I have been to Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Grenada, Spain, Germany and Switzerland. In recent years, though, I have spent a lot of time in Guatemala. It is my favorite place by far, so much so that I consider it my second home.
I have on my bucket list to travel to Ecuador and Chile and Venezuela or wherever the stories take me.
Her Goals and Her Favorites
My writing goals are just that, to keep writing. I want to bring other issues to light for students about which they may not know and do so with diverse characters in whom they can see themselves or learn about others.
I love to cook and bake (that’s why I have to be so active!). I never met a pasta I didn’t like; same is true for a cookie. As for books, I love the coming-of-age genre. I like young people and I’m fascinated by their growth and self-realization process. I think my favorite book is A Separate Peace by John Knowles, though I have read many other great ones too (whose names escape me – not my strong suit, remembering book titles!). My Netflix queue is a bunch of documentaries and TV shows on criminality. That genre helps me formulate ideas for the full-length novel that I am writing in English. Typically I listen to the programs rather than watch, so if it’s a show like GoT, for example, where you really have to pay attention, you won’t find me in front of it!
Kaitlyn knew she wanted to be a writer since she was a little girl, but she started her writing career when her super cute daughter Kiara turned one.
Kiara and Mom, two big inspirations.
I have my daughter and two amazing women to thank for leading me down this wonderful path of writing children’s books.
It all started with my mom. One day, she was listening to me sing a funny song I made up for my daughter, and she said: “You should write children’s books.” Not long after, my friend, Sarah, who was in the honors college with me back at Fresno State, asked friends on Facebook to give her feedback on her children’s story idea. The mixture of all three things—my mom’s encouragement, my friend’s inspiration, wanting great math picture books for my daughter—is what got me going.
Kaitlyn is a children’s book writer who recently signed with literary agent Rebecca Angus of Golden Wheat Literary. She has a book contract in the works and an amazing agent. She’s also a Math teacher.
Her biggest mistakes 😬
I made the same mistakes many new writers do. I wrote before researching the industry. I think many of us have written our whole lives so we think we can just do it—no training, no help—and that’s a major no-no for most people. I love the quote at the beginning of Ann Whitford Paul’s Writing Picture Books –
Also, I wrote in rhyme before I knew that rhyme needs rhythm, who knew?! LOL. (*Whispers* the people who did their research first, they knew…😂)
How does she handle rejections?
Some rejections are really hard, and others are no big deal. Sometimes, a rejection makes me feel so bad that I stop writing, and other times I just slough it off and work on my WIP. But every time what keeps me going is support.
My critique partners always know just what to say to make me feel better. And reading their work always renews my drive! This community truly is amazing.
And of course, when it’s really bad, I have my family.
I will never forget how one rejection left me depressed (not clinically depressed because it didn’t last two weeks—thank goodness—but I felt a horrible despondecy, I felt dejected to my core, and I lacked motivation in the worst way.) My hubby knew how to help: he ordered pizza, we got some beer, and watched a movie as a family, all on the bed.
A good support system means everything in this business, and I’m incredibly lucky to have that.
Kaitlyn Solves the Mystery: What the Heck is Voice? 🤔😮🤩
I always had a hard time understanding what “voice” meant exactly. I mean I KNEW that different things I read had distinct voices, but as a writer, I wasn’t sure EXACTLY what it meant until I read this post: http://bookendsliterary.com/2019/01/10/defining-voice/ and I was like “Ohhh…that makes sense!”
What is Kaitlyn’s voice?
I’m actually not sure I could have answered this question about my voice before yesterday. One of my fantastic author-illustrator CPs, June Steube, commented on a new story of mine. She said, “I noticed your unique voice really coming through in your stories – you have this boundless enthusiasm and it is there in everything you write.” So, I’m going to say: enthusiastic! LOL. 😀
How Did She Get Her Fantastic Agent
When she got the news with hubby and Kiara. Happy Moments!!!😍😁💃👍
This was so exciting! There was a ton of serendipity in a short period of time.
After I received an offer of publication, I sent out emails to agents requesting their representation. I hadn’t queried Rebecca Angus before because she was closed to queries. Now she was open! And my story was even better with the help of Diana Murray’s feedback after Tara Luebbe’s Writing with the Stars Contest.
Then, while researching Rebecca, I noticed her first client listed on Publishers Marketplace was none other than one of my new critique partners, Annemarie Riley Guertin! I asked Annemarie if I could say in my query that we were CPs and she said yes.😁
Rebecca responded to my email the next day asking to see the story with the offer and the one I referenced in my bio. Three days later, Rebecca sent an email asking if I could chat the next week.
I was floored when the call started with Rebecca gushing about my math story! It’s not the one with the publication offer; it’s the one I had been working on since I started writing professionally. The one that I think can really make a difference for children, being a fun math story on a topic that is often overlooked. The more we talked, the more I loved her style, I’m pretty sure I said, “You’re a dream” many many times in the conversation.
I’m so lucky to have found someone that believes in me and totally goes with my style!
How Does Kaitlyn Balance Job, Writing, and Family?!?!🤹♀️🏃♀️👩🏫
I wish I could say I have always balanced them, but I’m afraid not. At one point, my husband had to sit me down for a talk about ignoring him and our daughter when I was home because I was working on writing and critiquing. If you think your writing is taking precedence over your family, and you just haven’t figured out how to balance it, you will, once you acknowledge (or your mate makes you acknowledge in my case lol) that it is something that needs to be addressed. If you’re not sure, just ask, I’m sure your partner will be more than happy to share. 😉
Her superpower 🧜♀️🧚♂️🧝♀️🧚♀️
FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS
Superpower? Ha, I’m not sure I have one of those, but if I had to pick my most intense quality, I’d say my focus. I have this crazy ability to block out everything else and focus on what’s at hand. The rest of the world falls away. If anyone tries to talk to me during that time, I often jump from being startled because I forgot they were there.
Once we have my first book contract all settled, Rebecca will be sending my math story out to publishers; I really hope they like it! (As her CP I read it, so I know publishers will love it! )
Some of Kaitlyn’s favorites blogs/sites.
Three sites: If I have to pick just three (and in no particular order)
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
Minha familia – Sou a com lingua de fora. I’m the one with glasses sticking out my tongue – right side of my mom. My sisters tricked us- my brother, my mom and me. They said: stick out your tongues. They didn’t! I did.
Am I too old to start all over?
A long, long time ago, I wrote stories in Brazil.
I was happy and proud, but then …
I moved to California (In Brazil, there is a wonderful song about living the dream in California- here is a quick video.)
So, since the “grass always looks greener on the other side,” I left my beautiful Rio de Janeiro to search other seas.
And, there in California, I worked full-time as an interpreter, took care of my two amazing kids and tried to write. But then …
Life happened again! Ai, caramba!
I moved, with my ex-husband to Florida. Florida is the place to be, right?
I decided to forget about writing and focus on working and improving my English skills after I went to a writer’s conference and the editor told me:
I guess my story of a Moon blinking and a girl revealing -what all kids know – that the Moon has eyes and it was flirting with everybody, was not a story for the American market. That was in 1996!!! But I’m not that old.
Well, yes I am. I’m already a grandmother – two girls and three boys- all wonderful and cute. I can send you pictures if you ask me to. 😊
Life kept happening, and I went back to teaching. Now, I teach Spanish with FLVS. My kids all left the house. And I had to keep writing crazy stories to my students – at the time Saint Pauls Clearwater Independent School.