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Creating Readers through Relationship

SBS alumna and teacher Catherine Shaper Schweer ‘05 impacts students through fifth grade English.
“If students could come away with one thing from my class, it would be a lifelong love of reading,” says fifth grade English teacher Catherine Schweer ‘05.

A Houston native who attended Second Baptist School from first through twelfth grade, Mrs. Schweer has been part of the #SBSfamily through multiple generations. Her mom taught for many years and was head of lower school when she was a student at SBS.

Mrs. Schweer speaks fondly of her time as a student, saying, “God blessed me with a wonderful educational experience, and I felt called to provide this for the next generation of kids. I truly loved my student experience at SBS and couldn’t wait to return as a faculty member. I’m still close with many of my classmates, teachers and coaches.” She continues, “I love that my daughters, Lily and Elle ‘34, will experience all of the wonderful people, opportunities and love that I benefited from and enjoyed here.”

Teaching runs in her blood, and Mrs. Schweer is especially passionate about fifth grade. “I love being one of the lucky few who introduces students to the crazy world of middle school.” The culture of her classroom is fun, flexible and comfortable.

Fifth grade English in Mrs. Schweer’s class is about reading and relationship. This year alone, she has 16 students who have read over one million words. Mrs. Schweer says, “It is really exciting for me to see my students uncover their identity as readers. As I exposed them to different genres and authors, they discovered their reading preferences, and consequently take more pleasure in their reading.” For example, Abby Berkman ‘28 and Caroline Kell ‘28 have both shown tremendous growth this year in their love and volume of reading. Mrs. Schweer shares, “Abby discovered a love of historical fiction and has read several WWII novels, and Caroline breezed through almost 15 fantasy and mythology novels.”

One of our goals at SBS is to cultivate students who value intellectual curiosity. “Reading is important on so many academic levels: it improves student writing, builds vocabulary, gives historical perspective and promotes diversity and understanding,” explains Mrs. Schweer. “Middle school is a formative time in a student's life in which he or she is being refined through social, academic and spiritual challenges. Books are a great vehicle to learn from someone else's mistakes or to understand those who are different from us. As students build their capacity for empathy and broaden their understanding of diverse perspectives, it becomes easier to be kind to one another, forgive each other and comfort those in the midst of difficult situations. When students understand and choose tolerance, they become leaders in the classroom.”

Haley Chance, Middle School Dean of Academics, says, “Mrs. Schweer’s students always finish the year as stronger readers and writers, but what sets her apart as a teacher is her ability to connect with students and leverage her relationships with them to inspire them to be truly excellent. They end up not only exceeding Mrs. Schweer’s expectations for them but their own expectations for themselves.” Mrs. Schweer credits Mrs. Chance for encouraging her to take risks, saying the middle school team constantly reflects on their teaching to benefit the students.

Finally, Head of Middle School Ellen Barrett sums it up by saying, “When you walk into Mrs. Schweer’s class - all eyes are on her. Her students adore her and hang on her every word, because she makes learning fun and because she gets what makes them tick! This ability allows Mrs. Schweer to push them to deeper levels of reading and writing because they want to read and write with her and for her.” When students are motivated by genuine relationship, they grow and soar, both in and out of the classroom.
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