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Teacher starts book series aimed at making learning fun

Posted September 28, 2014 8:19 p.m. EDT

After nearly two decades in the classroom, Kristin Schmalzbauer understands how kids learn and she's not afraid to get right on the floor with them.

Schmalzbauer, a mom and first grade teacher at Laurel Park Elementary School, has been telling stories and using fun characters to help her students learn for 17 years. Marvin the mouse, for instance, plays a central role in her classroom, helping with morning announcements and class rules.

At our Go Ask Mom event at the Midtown Farmers' Market earlier this month, she performed "The Hand Fish," a fun folktale that teaches kids the importance of keeping native animals in their home countries. Schmalzbauer turned her arms and legs into puppets by donning gloves and boots with faces on them. Kids were entranced.

"Every year, I've come up with different characters to teach certain lessons," Schmalzbauer tells me. "I started putting them down on paper."

She is now publishing those stories, starting with "Broomilda and Crookalinda," a cute book that my five-year-old is enjoying. It teaches kids the different sounds of the double "o" in a story about two witches who look alike. Her second book, "Harold Hangs On," will be published this fall. She hopes to publish more stories for her Learning with Laughter website.

Schmalzbauer credits her students for encouraging her to become an author. As her students complained that they didn't want to revise their own work, Schmalzbauer showed them how it's done. She drew her pictures again and rewrote the words to her own stories.

"It became such a fun thing to do with my students," she said. "And they became so excited that their teacher is an author." 

Schmalzbauer has more stories to publish ... a "truckload" as she describes. More will come, she tells me.

"It's focused on putting the fun back into learning and using funny expressions and funny stories and funny little characters to get the kids engaged more in what they are learning," she said.

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