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Career Story: Literacy Specialist At An Elementary School

Literacy Specialist At An Elementary School

Job Title: Literacy Specialist

Education: BA in English Lit, Concentration in creative writing, Haverford College •• MEd in Early Childhood Education, Lesley University •• CAS in Reading, Mass General Hospital Institute of Health Practitioners

Previous Experience: I was a first grade classroom teacher for three years. Then I taught Reading Recovery, a one-to-one program that supports struggling first grade readers, for four years. I was also the co-director of a professional development organization for teachers. I led summer institutes, coordinated inservice, created and taught graduate courses, wrote articles and supervised other staff.

Job Tasks: I work in an elementary school. I have numerous and varied responsibilities. No two days or two weeks are alike. The main focus of my job is doing professional development with teachers. I frequently gather resources, develop curriculum and then work in one classroom, or at one grade level, for several weeks at a time, modeling lessons and co-teaching.

I also work with individual and small groups of students who are struggling in reading and writing. Currently, I am working one-on-one with Kindergarten students, for 15-minute sessions, four times/week. I also run an early morning reading fluency group. Twelve students in grades 2-4 work on a computer program designed to increase their reading rate, for 20 minutes, four times per week. Soon, I will be starting an afterschool group that will help students prepare for the state standardized test.

Students are formally assessed three times per school year. I help with assessments and collect assessment data on all of the students and am responsible for designing support for struggling readers and writers. I also help teachers use the data to create reading groups and tailor instruction to students' needs. I supervise instructional aides who work with small groups of students. I test students in English and Language Arts for special education evaluations and make recommendations for instruction.

A few times a year, I lead district-wide workshops. I train staff in many education programs. I often consult with teachers about students, curriculum, and teaching strategies. I have just set up several parent-child book groups, which will be held outside of school at students' homes. I organize summer reading programs and schoolwide events. On African-American Read-In Day, the entire school reads one book by an African-American author. On Read Across America day, guest readers will visit each classroom. In the spring, all children and teachers dress as vocabulary words and community judges are brought in to judge our vocabulary parade. Twice a year, I solicit book donations and students bring in books and take home new reading material in a schoolwide book swap.

Sometimes I make presentations for parents at PTO meetings or for the Superintendant or School Council.

I am constantly learning, reading, and exploring new questions.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: There are many things I enjoy about the job. I like working with teachers and students. I love teaching writing. I get a lot of satisfaction when students grow as readers, writers and thinkers. I am always learning new things and I enjoy that each day is different from the day before.

Job Tips:
1. Learn as much as you can about teaching, learning, reading, writing, speaking and listening. You can never have too much information.

2. Much of the job, as in many jobs, is negotiating personalities, finding ways to work together with teachers without making them feel threatened, sussing out how to be helpful and how to value teachers' time.

Additional Thoughts: There's a great professional community of literacy teachers with many journals, conferences, and online resources out there. If you enjoy professional conversation, there is lots to be found.

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