Educators know that reading serves as a gatekeeper for high school graduation and success in college. Literacy opens pathways in life that otherwise could not be traveled.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Since the 1980s, Albemarle County Public Schools has supported educators in our schools to enroll in the Master’s program in Reading at the University of Virginia. Teacher Laura Shifflett wrote the following piece to summarize the experiences of a cohort of fourteen educators who graduate in 2011 with an advanced degree in reading instruction from the Curry School of Education. Laura walked the full length of the Lawn on May 22 along with her Albemarle classmates.
By Laura Shifflett, secondary English educator:
I started this program as a high school English teacher who simply wanted to learn how to teach my 10th grade students how to read so they could pass their driver’s permit test. However, in my adventures, I received so much more. I got to meet, collaborate with, and learn from phenomenal teachers with expertise spanning from elementary through high school. As I reflect on my journey, I wanted to pass along some numbers that went through my mind and I thought would be of interest:
75+ – The number of Albemarle County Public School teachers who attended the information session about the UVA Reading Program in the Spring of 2008. The room at the ARC was standing room only.
30 – The original number of Albemarle County Public School teachers who commenced this degree program in Reading Instruction in August 2008.
14 – The final number of Albemarle County Public School teachers who persevered long enough to finish the degree program and will graduate in 2011.
9 – The number of those teachers graduating, who not only taught full time while pursuing this degree, but also left school at the end of the day to tend to their other full time job – as moms and a dad. Furthermore, one of us is the mother to a handsome young boy with a big, bright smile, who also just happens to have cerebral palsy.
7 – The number of parking tickets we received from UVA!
100+ – The number of miles we walked from Barracks Road parking lot or Ivy Parking Garage to Curry School of Education and back, so we would not receive another parking ticket.
2 – The teachers who had never specifically taught reading to students upon starting this program; rather they introduce students to the excitement of physical education and the creativity of ceramics daily. Now, reading and writing strategies are innately woven into their art and PE lessons.
1 – To represent the elementary school teacher who had her first child and returned to class just weeks after delivery. She is now expecting her 2nd child in September.
14 – The number of teachers who are very appreciative of the opportunity to pursue this degree, an opportunity provided by ACPS. We will carry the literacy knowledge gained with us as we continue to work with students of all ages as well as teachers of all experience levels in our schools.
Comments follow from some of the teachers who graduated with Laura on May 22:
“I had such a feeling of pride and accomplishment today. Receiving a degree from UVA is something I could not have afforded on my own. I am so grateful to Albemarle County for funding this program. Thank you so much. I know my students will benefit from the knowledge I have gained. I am a better teacher and a better person because of this program.”
“To say that we appreciate the county for giving us this opportunity would be an understatement!”
“I remember when the county offered the first information session about the masters opportunity. The room was packed and people were standing and sitting on the floor. It is such an honor to have gone through the program with the wonderful people that I did. I made new friends with whom I am so proud to walk the Lawn! I am so grateful to the county for the gift of a Masters Degree from UVA!!!”
“We all are so lucky to have a school district that is willing to support us in our growth as teachers. I have gained so much and I thank the county for letting me be a part of this cohort.”
The value added to our schools as a result of the lifelong learning work of these educators will accrue for years to come as they assist young people who are learning to read, both those who struggle with reading and those to whom literacy comes with more ease. Their work will provide a great return on our investment in them and their investment in the young people they serve. (Pam Moran)