A veteran teacher and an author whose books have helped millions of children learn to read has joined Ridgefield’s Board of Education.

“I was a teacher for 20 years and I’m on a leave of absence this year,” said Nora Gaydos. “And I’m actually not going to go back to the classroom, so I’m sort of closing that door. I’m also a children’s author. I have for the past several years been a teacher and a writer, and I’m going to now focus on the writing.”

Gaydos was chosen by the Board of Education Monday night, Feb. 10, to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Doug Silver.

“One of the main reasons I wanted to be part of Board of Education is I really strongly believe in the public schools,” Gaydos told The Press. “I come from a family of teachers, both of my parents were 40-year public school educators. That was a reason, my strong belief in the public schools.

“I think I really have a high expectation for student achievement and a strong desire to enhance the Ridgefield schools,” she added..

“The last reason I really wanted to be on it was because I feel like I can be a really trustworthy representative of the public’s interest, someone that people can talk to and know I’ll be honest and straightforward and reflective.”

Elementary level

Gaydos’ teaching has all been in elementary schools — in Redding for the last 10 years, following eight years in Westport and five years in Ohio before that.

“All elementary, ranging from kindergarten to grade five,” she said. “I’ve done it all in the elementary grades.”

Board of Education Chairwoman Margaret Stamatis said Gaydos is a welcome addition.

“Like Doug Silver, Nora brings an educator and a RPS parent perspective to the Board of Education,” Stamatis said. “...During her teaching career, she sat on school improvement committees, developed and wrote new curriculum, and implemented innovative programs geared toward remediation in literacy. She's an award winning author of early literacy children's books, the ‘Now I’m Reading Series.’ Literacy is a passion of hers.”

Gaydos has live in Ridgefield 15 years. Her husband, Christopher, is chief financial officer for Time magazine. They have two sons: Luke, a sophomore at Brown University, and Owen, a junior at Ridgefield High School.

She grew up in Michigan and went to college at Miami University of Ohio, where she met her husband, who’s from Cleveland.

“Definitely Midwesterners,” she said, “but we have really found a home out here.”

Young readers

Her writing reflects her interest in education.

“I write mainly beginning reading type books,” she said. “They are early literacy books that help children learn to read, and one of the most popular things I’ve written is a beginning reading series.

“It’s a series that combines phonetics with a literature-based approach, while developing comprehension and, most of all, confidence in young readers — basically a step-by-step approach that introduces phonetics in a systematic way while being true to the story experience.”

She’s proud of the books, and the role they’ve played in kids’ education.

“They’ve helped over three million children learn to read,” she said. “... And hearing from teachers and kids and parents all of the world is something I’m really proud of.”

Asked about her priorities, Gaydos said she doesn’t have an agenda she wants to pursue on the board. But she did describe some educational values she hopes to give voice to.

“I have sort of broad priorities I could tell you about,” she said..

“Putting students first would be number one, and focusing on what’s best for all students.

“I also believe that the high quality of instruction that students in Ridgefield are receiving begins with the nurturing and strong teachers that we have, and with that I believe in elevating the respect that teachers receive.

“Another major priority is responding to the beliefs and values of the entire community,” she said. “I’m not representing only parents of school-age children. I want to be a voice for all members of the community.

“Also, adopting a fiscally sound district budget that also provides the best possible education to the Ridgefield students,” she said.

“The last one would be working as a team with other board members to provide support for teachers, students and administrators while also representing the needs and wants of the community.”

Giving back

Gaydos said her interest in serving on the Board of Education grew, in part, from gratitude for all that the Ridgefield Public Schools had done for her two sons.

“I feel very honored to be able to give back to the district that has given so much to my boys,” she said. “I really feel like Ridgefield has given my boys so much, and hope to give that to the next generation.”