Elaine’s Circle: A Teacher, A Student, A Classroom and One Unforgettable Year

April 3, 2013

Summary (from the publisher): Elaine Moore, a veteran teacher in Eagle River, Alaska, is a firm believer that the classroom is, first and foremost, a community—and that learning is best when shared in a circle of peers. When one of her students, ten-year-old Seamus Farrell, is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Elaine, her students, and her innovative methods of teaching are put to their most severe test. Elaine’s Circle is the true account of this small-town teacher who led her fourth-grade students through the biggest challenge of their young lives. This book provides a heart-wrenching, intimate look at the utterly remarkable achievements of this dedicated teacher, a supportive community, and a group of children who rallied to make Seamus Farrell’s impending death an unforgettable lesson about life.


I enjoyed getting to know the pupils from Ms. Moore’s 4th grade class in Room 112 at Ravenswood Elementary School. I thought Elaine’s approach to teaching was fantastic, and loved all the little things she did to draw the best from her students, such as going on field trips to give the non-bookish students a chance to shine, etc.

The best part of Elaine’s class was Circle Time, where everyone would gather in a circle on the floor and talk about topics that were important to them. Practically anything was okay, as long as the students had something to share and were respectful of each other. This helped build a very strong sense of community and companionship within the classroom.

Room 112 faced its greatest challenge when Seamus Farrell, one of the energetic, likable leaders of the class, was diagnosed as having an inoperable brain tumor. According to Seamus’ mom, his greatest fear was not being sick and dying, but being forgotten by his friends and classmates. Elaine made sure that didn’t happen. She and the students of Room 112 made cards for Seamus and even set up a tutoring system whereby they would visit his home during their lunch hour and help him keep up with homework.

It was heartwarming to read about such actions performed by 10-year-olds. Elaine decided from the beginning to be honest with the kids and deal with Seamus’ condition in an honest yet sensitive way. As a result, they all learned important life lessons in the face of a classmate’s death.


This isn’t the kind of book to read if you’re seeking literary merit. Instead, it simply provides a glimpse inside one special classroom in small-town Alaska during one memorable school year. Despite the tragic outcome, this book manages to be heartwarming and hopeful. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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