4 out of 4 stars
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Madame Katzen had an eye for promising students. When an exceptionally bright student lacked the necessary funds to further their education, Madame Katzen would provide for them. How she had the ability to provide this money on a teacher’s salary would not be a mystery for long. Author Ira Sumner Simmonds tells the story of his inspirational teacher in From Siberia to Saint Kitts: A Teacher’s Journey.
As Ira started the tenth grade, he was filled with excitement and anticipation. He looked forward to learning modern languages. Mrs. Katzen had a well-known reputation. She was an older, no-nonsense teacher. Mrs. Katzen had a profound effect on Ira. So profound, in fact, that Ira became a French teacher himself. Later in life, Ira began to reflect on his past and his source of inspiration, Madame Katzen. He decided to find out more about her life and write her biography.
Ira’s research revealed a unique and outstanding woman. Zenaida Katzen’s life began in Russia and continued to China, Chile, France, and St. Kitts. She lived a boldly independent life with an intense focus on education. With a deep passion for the success of her students, the often-misunderstood Madame Katzen undoubtedly gave many young people the resources to accomplish greatness.
If you’re looking for an action-packed thriller or a passionate love story, this is not the book for you. This is an engaging and relaxing read. The author’s deep admiration for Mrs. Katzen is so clearly presented that it is difficult to feel any different. However, as a mother, I found it difficult to understand how she could care so deeply for her students and have such a small presence in her own son’s life. Still, the is no arguing that this woman was a perfect subject for a biography. She was brilliant, bold, and very interesting.
This book is skillfully written, organized, and edited. There was not one grammar mistake to be found. However, the story is told through letters written by Mrs. Katzen and her dear friend. Most often there is nothing, other than the beginning of a new paragraph, to differentiate between the authors of the letters. This leaves the reader with the responsibility of deciding who is speaking. The book includes real photos that put faces to the names of Mrs. Katzen, her students, and her family.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. Readers of biographies and historical fiction and non-fiction would enjoy this book. It is a well-written biography about a unique and passionate teacher.
From Siberia to St. Kitts: A Teacher's Journey
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