Spotlight! Meet Tom & Alex, Your Lifeline for Navigating Teaching!

Authors Tom Hierck and Alex Kajitani 

You’re a Teacher Now! What’s Next? by Tom Hierck and Alex Kajitani, is an intimate guide and grounds for inspiration for new and veteran teachers. This insightful book delves into the common challenges encountered by teachers and offers practical, research-based strategies and tools to strengthen classroom effectiveness. Each chapter provides guidance on topics such as classroom management, relationship building, delivering effective instruction, and prioritizing self-care. With its easily accessible FAQ format, this book is positioned to be a vital tool for teachers, helping them navigate the myriad questions and challenges encountered in their profession.  

“Building relationships with students is the key to successful teaching. It’s also what makes this work most rewarding and memorable.” 
You’re a Teacher Now! What’s Next?

What excites you most about the content of this book?

What excites us most about You’re a Teacher Now! What’s Next? is how it serves a real, urgent need. We’re at a crossroads in education. Many of our teachers are burned out and leaving the profession. We’re hiring new teachers (many coming to teaching through alternative certification programs) who are being dropped into the classroom with very little experience. They need real strategies now, and this book gives them the critical tools to be effective using a fun, conversational format that feels like a chat over coffee with a trusted friend. 

Can you elaborate on the aspects of teaching that you mention often go unacknowledged, and why it’s crucial for educators to address them?

Perhaps the single most important aspect of being an effective, fulfilled teacher is the relationships we build with our students and colleagues. This is largely overlooked, as new teachers are often advised to focus on curriculum and classroom management. Building relationships with students is the key to successful teaching. It’s also what makes this work most rewarding and memorable.

Why did you choose to start with the topic of setting up a safe, clean environment? How does this foundation contribute to overall teaching success?

Our classrooms are much more than rooms in a building. They’re where we do our best and most challenging work. For our students, our classrooms are where they come to feel safe, seen and grow. From how we arrange our desks to what we put on the walls, everything matters. The opening chapter shows teachers exactly how they can set up their rooms so students feel the comfort of walking into a well-organized and inviting place each day!

In Chapter 4, you address promoting student behaviors that contribute to learning. Can you highlight some effective methods for encouraging positive behaviors and discouraging unwanted ones?

There’s a striking reality that hits every new teacher the first few weeks of school: every student is different. Thus, every student acts differently. Chapter 4 gives teachers immediately implementable strategies to promote appropriate behaviors, such as setting clear expectations and speaking to students in encouraging and positive ways. We also show teachers exactly what to do when students exhibit negative behaviors, including how to quickly find the reason behind the behavior and how to redirect students before things escalate. 

It’s always good to remember that the student who challenges you the most is also the student who needs you the most!

How did the collaborative process between the two of you enhance the content of your book? Was there a specific event, experience, or idea that prompted the collaboration?

Over the past few years, both of us have spent considerable time in classrooms across the United States and Canada working with new teachers. Whenever we connected to talk about our experiences, the conversation points were eerily similar. We’re seeing firsthand the challenges new teachers are facing on a daily basis in these times, and we both feel a deep obligation to help. This isn’t just a book we wanted to write—it’s a book we had to write! 

Tom Hierck has been an educator since 1983 in a career that has spanned all grade levels. He has been a teacher, an administrator, a district leader, a department of education project leader, and an executive director.

Alex Kajitani holds the title of California Teacher of the Year and has been a top-four finalist for National Teacher of the Year. He is a highly sought-after speaker and a top authority on engagement, building relationships, and teacher leadership.

For more insights from Tom and Alex, explore these educator resources selected especially for you!


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