Dear Cindi Rigsbee

Finding Mrs. Warnecke: The Difference Teachers Make
by Cindi Rigsbee
(Wiley/Jossey Bass, 2010 – Learn more)


Reviewed by José Vilson

Dear Cindi Rigsbee,

As a teacher in urban schools, I often prefer the timbre of a roar instead of the melody of a heart-to-heart. These days, I expect any teacher within five feet of a mic to get on there and list their grievances about a job that, to anyone watching closely, has become more thankless than at any other time in recent memory. Thus, books of note have almost exclusively fallen under two categories: educational policy papers or instructional manuals. Rarely do books veer off the edge and back to the heart of why teachers do what they do.

Yours does that, and then some.

Finding Mrs. Warnecke: The Difference Teachers Make tackles the teacher memoir with aplomb, a spiritual template for those who seek to answer the question of who first inspired them to teach. Your own journey from an awkward first grade student to accomplished educator became a dedication to the first teacher you encountered who made her classroom into a center for academic and person growth, Mrs. Warnecke. You dedicate a good portion of your manuscript to your mistakes, fears, pains, and insecurities — for every reader to see — a risky endeavor for any “Teacher of the Year.” You also opened up the book to others who shared their own stories of the remarkable teachers who taught them.

This, like so few education books these days, was a book of love.

I particularly enjoyed the last portion of the book where we get treated to what comedians call “the big reveal.” I don’t intend on ruining the surprise. Suffice it to say that everyone who needs a multi-page burst of inspiration should get your book. I shouldn’t be surprised. Ever since I met you, you’ve shown nothing but a natural affinity for the profession, a warm temperament, and the ability to frame the national discussion of the tumult and rumble of today’s teaching profession with a grace that is evident from the very first page of this story. You’ve actually made the rest of us feel like we can do this.

Seems like you found Mrs. Warnecke long before you met her again.



José Luis Vilson teaches middle grades math in the Inwood-Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. He’s a graduate of Syracuse University (computer science) and the City College of New York (masters, mathematics education), and a prominent blogger on matters of education, race, Black Latino culture, life in urban America and, most recently, fatherhood. See his article The Homeroom Is a Home here at MiddleWeb.


MiddleWeb is all about the middle grades, with great 4-8 resources, book reviews, and guest posts by educators who support the success of young adolescents. And be sure to subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief for the latest middle grades news & commentary from around the USA.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks Jose for this review. I would always rather read a story that demonstrates good/great teaching skills than pour through a lot of academic text. Will be purchasing this book!
    Caroline in Glen Ellyn, IL

  1. 09/09/2012

    […] Dear Cindi Rigsbee José Vilson writes a book review in the form of a professional love letter to middle grades teacher Cindi Rigsbee, author of Finding Mrs. Warnecke. Read more → […]

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