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Westminster preservice teachers use ‘hidden stories’ to connect with students

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Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2021

Eight Westminster College secondary education preservice teachers spent the fall semester exploring ways to elevate the voices of underrepresented writers, scientists, mathematicians and historical figures, while also weaving those ‘hidden stories’ into their teaching strategies.

English majors Hope Wilson, Lauren Seelbaugh and Julia Jenkins; history majors Makenzie Snarey and Ivy Withers; math majors Erynn Daubenmire and Zack Korzi; and neuroscience major Margo Mason—all students in Dr. Charlene Klassen Endrizzi’s fall 2020 semester class Reading in the Content Area—focused on using young adult picture book biographies to develop culturally responsive lesson plans.

“By examining the all too often ‘hidden stories’ of individuals like African American writer August Wilson, Latinx civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, Muslim architect Zaha Hadid and African American surgeon Vivien Thomas, Westminster’s preservice teachers were able to develop more comprehensive, relevant content area units in their work with middle and high school students,” said Klassen Endrizzi, professor of education.

By using inspiring picture books featuring “hidden stories” in their lesson plans, Klassen Endrizzi said, the preservice teachers hope to encourage and connect with their young students who also may face adversity or uncertainty in their own lives.

The work of the preservice teachers is featured in January edition of the international teacher website Worlds of Words. The overview, researched and written by Klassen Endrizzi and Dr. Karen Matis, adjunct professor in Westminster’s School of Education and Graduate School, highlights the lesson plans—or “learning invitations”—developed by the Westminster students.

“As a former middle school teacher, I continually offered strategies to engage my seventh grade learners,” said Matis. “Young adult picture book biographies provide a ‘relevant, hidden story’ to introduce new concepts. This fall semester we discovered how short, visually engaging texts stimulated curiosity and deep conversation with secondary math, science, history and English students.”

“We focused on nurturing adolescents as evolving, informed, thoughtful global citizens,” added Klassen Endrizzi. “We hope preservice teachers and classroom teachers continue to examine the need for culturally responsive instruction through young adult biographies along with other curricular avenues.”

To read Matis’ and Klassen Endrizzi’s post, click here.  Funding for this research was made possible by the Watto Faculty Research Award, created by George ’53 and Ruth Randall Watto ’51.

Klassen Endrizzi, who joined the faculty in 1993, earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from Fresno Pacific College and her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.  She is the author of the book “Becoming Teammates: Teachers and Families as Literacy Partners” and co-author of “Crossing Literacy Bridges: Strategies for Collaborating with Families of Struggling Readers.”

Matis, a retired public education middle school teacher, has served as an adjunct with Westminster since 2014. She earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Westminster and her D.Ed. from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

For more information about Westminster’s School of Education, visit

Above: Preservice teacher Hope Wilson with young adult book "Stamped."  Below: Dr. Karen Matis, left, and Dr. Charlene Klassen Endrizzi.