Teacher earns respect, leads others

Guest Blog by Nathan Kottlowski

Computer Lab Teacher, Cash Elementary School, Kernersville, NC

During the 2008-2009 school year we used Accelerated Reader (AR) to monitor student reading in Grades 1 – 5. In the fall of 2009, however, we discontinued AR because it was out of step with our reading goals. Whole reading became our focus, so reading quizzes were less desirable than assessments of fluency and vocabulary.

Maureen Patti was hired as a third grade teacher in 2008. She had taught 15 years in the private setting and she was very enthusiastic about reading. She was very disappointed that we dropped AR without an alternative. We looked at several replacement programs, but nothing was within our budget and in line with our reading goals.

Ms. Patti’s former school used Reading Naturally, a comprehensive reading program incorporating reading fluency, vocabulary, retell, comprehension, and assessments. She had seen it work in a small, Catholic school, and she felt it could supplement our online computer reading program.

Because I am the technology facilitator, she approached me in the fall of 2009. She wanted me to help her receive permission to purchase a Reading Naturally classroom license for her students. We had to talk to the principal, work through a grant proposal for funds, and get permission from the district office.

In spring, 2010, Read Naturally was installed on four of her classroom computers. In the fall of 2010, it was clear that her students were improving, and the other third grade teachers noticed. With the leadership of Ms. Patti and the support of the principal, we eventually got a school license. But this did not happen until she had grant money in hand and district approval.

In fall, 2011, third and fourth grade students used Read Naturally in both their classrooms and computer labs. All the teachers found that the program improved student reading.

I admire Ms. Patti’s leadership in this endeavor. It took a lot of courage as a new teacher in our school to persist and make this happen for our students. She put in a lot of time and energy to make sure all the paperwork and protocols were properly approved. Her attitude never wavered during the whole process, even when barriers and red tape seemed to get in the way.

I also admire Ms. Patti’s tenacity. She often finds things to help her students grow academically and emotionally. Her students respect her for her caring, but also for her expectations of them. She holds them accountable and they respond. Finally, her work in our school has influenced others, too. The new norm is for teachers to continually search for strategies that will benefit our students.