“Michael Copperman’s book Teacher is an honest and at times heart-wrenching account of the ups and many downs of the beginning teacher. With beautiful and evocative prose, Copperman paints a picture of the travails of an idealistic young Teach For America recruit bumping up against the realities of education in a rural Mississippi community where he doesn’t easily fit in. He deftly addresses issues of building a teacher identity across lines of difference with both students and structural impediments. Teacher should be required reading for pre-service teaching candidates as they prepare for their field placements. They will undoubtedly relate to the steep learning curves that Copperman recounts in the book, but they will also benefit from his joys and celebrations of the occasional victories of increased reading levels and afterschool breakthroughs. They will wrestle with Copperman’s ethical tensions to manage his classroom without corporal punishment. They will be challenged to consider their own values and how they can learn from Copperman’s two years in the Mississippi Delta and his continued commitment to underserved students.”

—Dr. Michael Cormack Jr., chief executive officer of the Barksdale Reading Institute, a nonprofit educational organization based in Mississippi; former elementary school principal; and adjunct professor at the University of Mississippi

Teacher is a very important book for aspiring administrators to read. Through a personal story, Copperman powerfully articulates the struggles of beginning teachers. There are a number of important themes that emerge from the book, such as the desire to be an exemplary teacher but not having the support to make it happen. The author ably articulates the profound needs of students and the system barriers that prevent teachers from meeting these needs. The cultural differences between the families and teachers is another important theme presented in the book. This book makes clear that mentoring and supporting beginning teachers is critical. I am using this book in my University of Oregon administrator licensure course titled ‘Building Leadership and Equity Skills to Improve Education Systems.’ I chose this book because all administrators must understand the importance of supporting new teachers and have the skills to put supports in place for them. Copperman’s words in Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta provide a call to action that can’t be ignored by administrators.”

—Nancy Golden, former superintendent of Springfield Public Schools and chief education officer for the state of Oregon

Teacher is a must-read for any teacher candidate who is inspired to help poor students achieve the American Dream. Copperman tells of his own aspirations as a new teacher and how he came to understand the impossibility of realizing those aspirations in the context of the gross inequality that America visits on its children. He writes with a rare honesty about coming to understand his complicity in that inequality, even as a person of color. Yet, Teacher is not a depressing book. With lyrical prose and many laugh-out-loud stories, Copperman’s account is beautiful as well as sobering. It will make young teachers who wish to ‘do good,’ especially for communities that are not their own, think deeply about what it means to respect their students and what they cannot and should not attempt to accomplish—and about what they can do in the space that remains.”

—Nicole Louie, assistant professor of mathematics education at the University of Texas at El Paso; and former middle school mathematics teacher on the south side of Chicago, who has worked with teachers in Chicago, San Francisco, and Oakland

“I assigned Teacher in upper-level ‘Education Studies.’ My intention with the course was to explore issues that students had become familiar with, through phrases like ‘The Achievement Gap’ and ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline,’ that distance them from the actual lives that are impacted by these structures. Copperman’s book guides students, still a few years from becoming classroom teachers, to think through the complexity of teaching, as ideals, hopes, and intentions entangle with the unforeseen—systems of inequity and deep historical injustices—even while continuing to teach. Neat narratives about teaching are standard in pre-service teacher programs, and students who have become critical appreciate a bit of honesty about how messy the undertaking of teaching is for so many of us. In an educational landscape that increasingly wants to measure and quantify that which is in excess of measurement and quantification, Copperman’s book is a welcome opportunity to dive into the uncertainty that characterizes actual teaching lives.”

—Asilia Franklin, School of Education, University of Oregon

“As an English and writing professor, Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta has been an excellent book for me to assign to students. The writing is accessible while also being challenging. It moves students while also requiring them to look at their own deeply held beliefs and convictions about race and what we think of as American meritocracy. Because Michael Copperman places himself in shoes we’d like to believe we would fill—we are good people, who only want to help—teachers and students identify with his experiences, and the book resonates deeply because of it.”

—Heather Ryan, professor, Wenatchee Valley Community College

“I urge you to pick up Michael Copperman’s new memoir. The real power of Teacher is that Copperman looks out as much as he looks in. He is alive to the place itself, to the horrors and beauties of the Delta, the segregated towns and tangled bayous, and, like any good teacher, Copperman is honest about and careful with the lives and stories of his students. They’ll follow you, these delightful, frustrating, intelligent children. They’ll be with you as you close Copperman’s wise, challenging memoir, as you lean back and consider how in the Mississippi Delta—and all across the country—the unimaginable weight of generational poverty and systemic racism falls on the slim shoulders of children. As you consider and wonder and marvel at the fact that every day public school teachers across the country try, and try again, and once again, to lift that weight, so that their students might, with luck and incredible courage, step out from under it.”

—Joe Wilkins, professor at Linfield College and author of the memoir “The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing Up on the Big Dry” and the poetry collection “When We Were Birds”

“Michael Copperman’s Teacher isn’t an ‘easy’ read. I squirmed. I squinted my eyes—as though doing so could make the truth of his words smaller. I continued forward knowing my discomfort was the result of an honest voice I needed to hear. Copperman’s story is the truth shared by all educators about our best intentions, our naïve betrayals, regrets that hiss in our memories. Teacher in itself is the act of teaching. It’s not about naming what’s right or wrong. It’s about what’s real and what we can learn from it.”

—Erin Fristad, educator and author of “The Glass Jar”

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