Meet Julie Gagne from Central Elementary in Ferguson, MO
by Matthew
February 17, 2022

Meet Julie Gagne, a 21-year veteran instructional coach at Central Elementary in Ferguson, MO.

We’ll officially meet her in March of 2023, when the Busload of Books Tour pays a visit to the Central Stars. Julie took a few minutes to tell us about herself, her students, and her school.

WHAT GETS YOU OUT OF BED IN THE MORNING?
Sharing my passion for literacy!

WHAT IS SOMETHING FUN OR QUIRKY ABOUT YOUR SCHOOL, STUDENTS, ETC?
Our school is the oldest two-room schoolhouse West of the Mississippi. A historic building, first built in 1890!

WHAT ABOUT YOUR SCHOOL MAKES YOU PROUDEST?
The dedicated teachers I work with.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SCHOOL TRADITION?
Our school parade at the end of the school year! We parade around the neighborhood and cars honk and neighbors wave!

WHAT DO YOU WISH PEOPLE BETTER UNDERSTOOD ABOUT THE CHALLENGES FACING TITLE I SCHOOLS?
That our students do not enter our doors “school ready”. We need wrap around services for students to address all of their needs!

WHAT IS YOUR SCHOOL’S GREATEST CHALLENGE?
Poverty, learning loss from the pandemic. We’ve had to deal with virtual teaching, lack of mental health resources, homelessness, food insecurities and not enough staff to teach all the students adequately.

WHAT WOULD BE YOUR TOP PRIORITIES IF YOUR SCHOOL HAD MORE FUNDING?
Books!!!! Interventionists. High quality materials. Parent outreach!

HOW WILL THE BUSLOAD OF BOOKS TOUR IMPACT YOUR COMMUNITY?
With most of our students learning virtually last year, getting our kids excited about reading and books will bring such a rich experience to their young lives! We especially want our families and students to get excited about reading and understand the importance of becoming powerfully literate members of our community. Our students are the most amazing young people on the planet!

Many thanks to Julie for taking the time to introduce us to her school—and for offering to feed us and let us park the bus in her driveway on the night before we visit Central. It’s just another sign of her incredible commitment to creating opportunities for her students and connecting them with books.

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Recently:

The Busload of Books Tour is a year-long project to promote literacy and raise awareness of the challenges facing our nation’s public schools.

Author/illustrator duo Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr (that’s us) and our four kids will spend the 2022-2023 school year traveling the country in a school bus/tiny home, visiting Title I schools in all 50 states (plus DC), and giving away 25,000 hardcover books to students and teachers from underserved communities.

As we travel, we will be blogging, vlogging and posting frequently to social media. All of our content will be appropriate for bringing families and students along on our ultimate road trip.

The latest on Instagram:

The Daily Minute: 12.9.22
In which, having just arrived in Texas, we plan to spend the night in Jasper County.

#busloadofbooks
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Robbi got this text from Erica Bridwell (known to friends and colleagues as “B”), the first-grade teacher who hosted Jasper during Tuesday’s visit to North Pike Elementary School in Summit, Mississippi. We signed a copy of Everywhere, Wonder for B, and Robbi had written in the dedication to “keep fighting the good fight.”
 
It’s a difficult time to be a teacher, especially at a school with limited resources and especially when serving kids who bring additional challenges to school. Educators need a boost every bit as much as their students do.
 
We’re sharing this to show that the tour is also for them, and maybe even more so. 
 
“We miss y’all! It felt like a part of us left when y’all did. Y’all have NO IDEA the impact you’re making not only on kids, but adults too! I haven’t had the easiest school year so far. I have felt defeated, frustrated, and overwhelmed. My connection with my students has felt faint and really nonexistent… I’ve struggled to find ways to motivate them, encourage them more… then y’all come along and somehow it has put fire back into me. Your words have made me reflect since I read them… “keep fighting the good fight…” it was powerful. I had that “full moon feeling” that feeling of how much I love what I do. I thought of what it means to me and what those kids mean to me. I remembered why God chose me to do this. Your kind words lifted me up. So thank you. Thank y’all. What y’all are doing is amazing! Safe travels! I’ll be following!”
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The Daily Minute: 12.8.22
In which we bask in the sweet Louisiana night and brace ourselves for the enormity of Texas.

#busloadofbooks
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Whoever you are, take your seat on the bus!

Our adventure is your adventure. Our country is your country, too. Follow along with us!