NWEA Staff Share Their Top Book Choices

NWEA Staff Share Their Top Book ChoicesWelcome 2016! We at Teach.Learn.Grow. are very excited for the possibilities and opportunities that this New Year brings. Some of us have already started on our resolutions which often include diving into a new piece of literature or dusting off an old favorite. At the end of last year, we asked NWEA staff members to share which books they read in 2015 and would recommend.

Jenny Williams, Professional Development Facilitator

I read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.  It was an easy read that made me reflect on how I provide feedback to others and how that feedback impacts my relationship with my team members. Since I often co-teach with others, this was important information for me to realize in my day-to-day work.

Andy Set, Sr. Product Marketing Manager

This year I read two great books. First, Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.  A true “page turner”! The mystery novel incorporates historical events of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. It’s a great book and will become a movie starring my favorite actor, Leonardo DiCaprio.

The second book I would suggest is Oil! by Upton Sinclair. It’s a novel about the oil boom in the southwest part of America — gritty, raw, and paints a picture of greed, wealth, classes, etc. Daniel Day Lewis won an Oscar for his portrayal in the film There Will Be Blood.

Kathy Dyer, Sr. Curriculum Specialist

For professional development purposes, I read Formative Classroom Walkthroughs: How Principals and Teachers Collaborate to Raise Student Achievement by Connie Moss and Sue Brookhart. Based on years of research and work with K-12 teachers and administrators, Moss and Brookhart put forth a learning target theory of action. The twist with these formative walkthroughs is observing specifically what the student is learning and doing rather than using a checklist for what the teacher is doing. This idea was a twist for me in thinking about walkthroughs. Being more about fostering formative conversations about student activity and learning and less about checklists seems like a good way to help both observers and teachers improve their practice.

In the category of fiction, I suggest reading The Mirror in the River and Strangers, Lovers and the Winds of Time by Dale Lovin. Written by a friend and former FBI agent, these books are action packed and partially set here in Colorado. Both offer details into ugly parts of our world that we may only know about at a surface level via our nightly news or newspapers. The Mirror in the River looks at the world of human trafficking. Lovin’s second novel delves into the world of white–supremacist hate groups. Suspenseful, unfortunately real and populated with good guys who are relatable, these books are quick reads and provide a bit of insight into what law enforcement not only deals with but has to live with on a regular basis. Learning more about these topics was interesting, the dialogue made me chuckle out loud at points, and the darkness made me wonder.

Angel Nelsen, Sourcing Manager

I thoroughly enjoyed reading and would highly recommend A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. It’s a touching, funny, sentimental, heartwarming story about a dog trying to figure everything out in whichever life he’s in and trying to get back to “his boy Ethan”. No matter what his resurrected life was he never forgot his love for his boy.

Mia McLaughlin, Event Coordinator

Definitely make time to read Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer. After watching Amanda’s TED talk I was intrigued by her fearlessness and the utter trust she has for her fan base. She has cultivated a very real connection to her audience. This book will change the way you think about connection, vulnerability and trust.

Shirley Lincicum, Sr. Information Management Specialist

My favorite book of 2015 is Out on the Wire: Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio. Cartoonist Jessica Abel channeled her passion for storytelling and radio into a book of graphic nonfiction (i.e. a 226 page comic) that illustrates the creative and editorial processes behind popular shows including This American Life, Snap Judgment, Radiolab, and Planet Money. I’ve been a devoted public radio listener and supporter for 20 years, and I’ve become even more addicted to audio storytelling as podcasting has enabled me to listen to the shows I love on demand. I found this book fascinating, inspiring and fun. Highly recommended to anyone who has ever had a “driveway moment”.

John Wood, Sr. Analyst – Assessment & Education

I recently finished Leo Tolstoy’s posthumous novella Hadji Murat.  Winter is the time for Russian authors. The story is one of action and betrayal set during the 1850’s as the Russians attempt to suppress a variety of rebel groups in the Caucasus region. As with all Tolstoy novels, the cast of characters is large ranging from Tsar Nicholas to Russian soldiers and their wives to the rebels themselves. The various factions and power dynamics at play feel surprisingly modern echoing the complexity of 21st Century struggles of faith and loyalty in that broad region.

Nicole Zdeb, Academic Services Director

I really enjoyed Louise Glück’s Faithful and Virtuous Night. It’s poetry that is wise, deep, thoughtful, and reflective. It helped me create a space in my life during the reading of it where I felt supported in thinking ‘big thoughts’—thinking about things that weren’t part of my daily task list, but that really matter to me. The book also won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2014.

Joi Converse, Public Relations Coordinator

It is truly hard to pick just one book, but I really enjoyed A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy. The author did a masterful job weaving together the lives of the visitors that came to the small town of Stoneybridge for a week-long vacation. Each character had entertaining backstories. Chicky Starr, the owner of the hotel by the sea, was the most interesting character of all. She didn’t play by conventional rules and somehow ended up on top even though she came from meager beginnings.

Hope you enjoyed this list and pick up one of these books! Stay tuned for more from Teach. Learn. Grow as we continue to share stories of growth and relevant information to assist you in your daily activities.



Photo by Germán Poo-Caamaño.