Monday, August 24, 2009

Celebrities who've met ME! Meet Dr. Nomsa Geleta

Pictured: Educator and author, Dr. Nomsa Geleta and Little Karol.

It all began…looking for a Jodi Picoult book, Little Karol sauntered up to the shelf, stared at the array of neatly organized titles and couldn’t make up her mind. So, she did what any teenager does. She changed her mind.

New plan: non-fiction.

She had the exact book in mind, but couldn’t remember the title. She walked me through her little brain tease. Movie. Teacher. Writers. I recalled the book but had no recollection of the title, either.

I, however, am never without options.

I eased up to the information desk, leaned an elbow on the counter, and had a casual, albeit quiet conversation, with an elderly woman who looked like today was her first day on the job.

“There’s a book about a teacher and she works in the inner-city.” I shuttered my voice so as not to sound as dumb to the general public as I obviously was, “And it’ good book.” I eased in closer. “They made a movie out of it.” The old lady leaned away. “And it starred...” I pursed my lips and paused, gazed up at the 30-foot store ceiling searching for the answer. “It's that girl who married Ben Afflect.” We were surrounded by exactly 1.56 quadrillion books, amassed inside a building which took up an entire city block, the world’s largest independent used and new bookstore, Powell’s Books, 68,000 sq. ft., multiple floors of paper, bindings and a coffee shop. Exactly my kind of place. The thought of coffee kicked the name into place, “Jennifer Garner!” I clapped my hands in relief, and glowed. Powell's attendants knew everything. “Do you know which book I’m talking about?”

The old lady’s cheeks flushed, she floundered, hands flying up to her throat. “I…I don’t know,” she stuttered.

My eyes darted around and I tried another tactic: repeat, repeat, LOUDER. “It’s a book that became a MOVIE…”

A blond floated by, caught the hints of Hollywood in our conversation and, of course, stopped to listen. She eased up to the info desk and leaned in.

I glanced at her, realized others waited for information, but not ready to give up my source to the secrets of Powells, I re-worded my question. “A book about a teacher. The kids write. They drink champagne, only it’s school and it’s not really champagne, it’s that sparkling apple juice. Cider stuff.”

The blond’s curls bounced as her head bobbed between me and the info lady. Info lady shrugged her rounded shoulders and shrank back on her stool. “I…I really don’t know.”

The blond pounced on the opportunity. “I do!”

I crossed my arms over my chest and leaned back on my heels. Really.

The blond squeezed her eyes shut. “Its…it’s Freedom something.” She opened her eyes and bit her lip, “I know it...” She strained as the competition with herself heated up. “Freedom...” She flapped her hands.

Little Karol and I blinked at each other and announced simultaneously, “FREEDOM WRITERS!”

The blond smiled and skipped off singing. “Told you I knew it!”

The old lady plucked at her keyboard and came up with the info. She slid a scrap of white paper our direction. In skaky script it noted, Aisle 641, Rose Room. We snatched the sheet and skipped off trying to figure out how to pronounce the author’s last name, using several variations. Erin Grunell, Erin Grinnell, Erin Groomwell. Old lady handwriting is hard to read.

“Gruwell,” stated a gentleman.

Our eyes flicked up and met the smile of a friendly stranger.

“Thanks,” I said. “I met her. We’re looking for her book, Freedom Writers.” Well, met as in sat in the audience at the YWCA event and listened to her story.

“Great book,” he said, and motioned toward the woman in the aisle with him, “She met her, too.” The woman smiled shyly as our attention focused on her. “In fact, “he continued, “She co-wrote her next book. Teaching Hope.”

It’s true, I thought. I can‘t go anywhere without celebrities seeking me out. It’s a good thing I’m interesting.

We introduced ourselves and and entered into a lively conversation with Dr. Dennis Pataniczek, Dean at Salisbury University, and Dr. Nomsa Geleta, Director of Graduate Programs. I tucked Dr. Geleta's card into my camera case right after I took her picture with Little Karol

We continued the conversation via email as I wanted to know more about Teaching Hope: Stories from the Freedom Writer Teachers and Erin Gruwell. Geleta first met Erin Gruwell just before the movie Freedom Writers was made. “We had invited her as a speaker for our campus. She stayed in touch with a colleague of mine. When she decided to invite a select group of "teachers" for a five day all paid institute she invited me although I was not a teacher in a K-12 setting. I am one of the only two professors in the group of 150 teachers that were selected to attend the institute and were then asked to participate in the book project. My role as well as those of other 150 participants was to write a story in the life of a teacher. I submitted one story about my teaching experience as a secondary school teacher. When the book comes out I will let you know which one is mine. The book is expected to be out August 16th. Barnes and Nobles will carry the book.

“I hope you and your daughter enjoy reading the Freedom Writers Diaries and the soon to be released Teaching Hope.

“I hope she finds the stories from both books inspiring and affirming her desire to be a teacher, our nation and the world needs good teachers.”

Thank you Dr. Geleta and Dr. Pataniczek for being friendly voices in a big bookstore willing to be kind to strangers looking for a good book, and for being in the right place at the right time. We loved meeting you! But most of all, thank you for caring about education. What you do changes the world

From the Random House web-site: ERIN GRUWELL, the Freedom Writers, and her nonprofit organization, The Freedom Writers Foundation, have received many awards, including the prestigious Spirit of Anne Frank Award, and have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Primetime, Good Morning America, and The View, to name a few. All 150 Freedom Writers went on to graduate from high school. Erin Gruwell is also a charismatic motivational speaker who spreads her dynamic message to students, teachers, and business people around the world. She lives in southern California.

Subtitle: Stories from the Freedom Writer Teachers and Erin Gruwell
Author: Gruwell, Erin
Foreword: Quindlen, Anna
Author: The Freedom Writers
Publisher: Broadway Books
Subject: Teacher-student relationships
Subject: Teachers
Subject: Teaching Methods & Materials - General
Subject: United states
Subject: Attitudes
Subject: Philosophy & Social Aspects
Publication Date: August 2009
Binding: Paperback
Language: English
Pages: 384


Melanie Sherman said...

"It’s true, I thought. I can‘t go anywhere without celebrities seeking me out. It’s a good thing I’m interesting." Hahahahahaha.

It IS true. Pretty soon famous people will have a bus tour past your door. Keep up the good work, Carol. Your blog is so fun.

The First Carol said...

Sheesh, if they're going to do THAT then I'll have to water the lawn. Do you think they'll stop, get off and take home a puppy?

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