Mrs. Schaefer, mother of two, grandmother of one, has been teaching ever since her eighth birthday, when she asked her parents for a slate blackboard, “just like the ones in school.” At the time, her students were friends, a doll and her older sister (who would also go on to be an elementary school teacher). She began her professional career teaching third graders, but grew fascinated by the science of instructing slow learners to read. Eventually, she became Brookside’s literacy specialist. It proved a complicated and time-consuming job – the school’s reading and writing scores ranked at or near the bottom of the school district. Always an innovator, several years ago she went to the principal, Mr. Hay, with an idea: What if we target the students on the cusp of passing the state standardized test, and provide them with enough special tutelage to push them over the top? If enough of them succeed, we might lift the entire school from failing to passing. Mr. Hay approved. By December of Marbella and Hydea’s fifth-grade year, she had one last slot to fill. She found herself forced to choose between the two.