1. What is your educational background, and how did you come to be a second grade teacher and the lower school literacy coordinator at Manlius Pebble Hill School?

I grew up in Cooperstown and attended the University of Notre Dame, where I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. I earned my Master of Science in Education from Northwestern University. While living in Chicago, I taught in Flossmoor, Illinois. When our family moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for my husband’s job, I started teaching online at the college level. This allowed me to continue teaching while staying home with my two young children. 

In 2012, I moved to Syracuse. When my daughter started fifth grade at Manlius Pebble Hill, I knew it was where I wanted to work. I was thrilled when I saw that MPH was hiring a lower school teacher. I started teaching at MPH in 2018. I’ve had the opportunity to complete literacy training in the science of reading. 

In addition to being a classroom teacher, I am also the literacy coordinator for the lower school. In this position, I find professional development opportunities for lower school teachers and provide resources to support our work with the science of reading. Spreading the word about this approach to teaching has become my passion. 

2. How do you make reading fun and versatile for your students

Teaching literacy is my favorite part of the day, and I hope my students can feel that! We have two parts of reading work each day. The first part focuses on word recognition. These activities help my students build skills in reading and writing words. The lessons include partner work, games, work with sand trays, and getting students up and moving. The other part of our reading work is integrated with our science and social studies topics. That makes the lessons engaging and meaningful for the students. Right now, we are learning all about caterpillars and butterflies. We will read a lot of books and learn new vocabulary. We also have caterpillars in our classroom. We are so excited to study them as we watch them transform into butterflies. 

3. How do you collaborate with the other teachers with reading goals?

I am very lucky to work in such a collaborative environment. If you were to join a conversation between teachers at the end of the day, chances are we would be talking about literacy. We talk about what works well and what is challenging, and we ask for advice about how we can best support our students. I learn so much from my colleagues every day. We also let our students know that we are still learning and growing, just like them. 

4. What is your favorite part of being an educator? 

It is hard to choose a favorite part, but when I see a student growing as a reader, it fills me with joy. Being able to read opens up the world for students. Science has shown us that the early years of education are crucial when it comes to literacy instruction. When I can provide effective instruction for a student so that they gain confidence and start to see themselves as readers, there is nothing better than that! 

Know an educator who deserves a mention? Email courtneyk@familytimescny.com.

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