Starting out as a student teacher in Metro Nashville Public Schools in 2003, I was trained in college to acquire my secondary ELA licensure and taught both 7th and 9th grades. During that training, I was given resources and strategies for teaching literature; however, during that student teaching experience, I recognized very quickly that many of my students were not equipped with basic reading skills to be able to not only read the texts I wanted to teach, but perhaps could impact them for the rest of their adult lives. I knew that my lack of knowledge was to the detriment of my students' skills, and, ethically, I was not ok with that. Prior to getting my first teaching job that fall, I graduated from undergrad and immediately enrolled in graduate school to study the Science of Reading instruction. Then, there were no real pathways for secondary ELA teachers, but the foundational information that I received during my graduate program gave me the tools I needed to not only support all of my students' reading abilities, but also design scaffolds or personalized instruction (such as guided reading, shared reading, and word study) to increase my students' reading abilities.
I became a high performing ELA teacher at both the middle and high school levels in the state of Tennessee, served as a state Master Teacher and trainer, and ultimately have served as a literacy coach, reading specialist, and now literacy coordinator for the administration and supervision of reading programs in secondary schools. From my experience, I have visited classrooms where teachers literally just have entered the profession with some of the same concerns and challenges I had when I was beginning my career as a teacher. The Colorado Department of Education is offering the Science of Reading Instruction courses based on the efficient suite of reading instruction and reading difficulty strategies and is exactly what is needed for teachers to understand the foundations to what makes students not only proficient readers, but also critical thinkers. In addition, with the shifts taking place in SLA instruction and Read Act expectations, our teachers must be equipped with this knowledge-- it is no longer ok for teachers to not know how students learn to read. Our workforce is rapidly changing in this country, thus the ability to read will be a matter of survival in a few short years that will affect children who are already fighting learning loss in the midst of a pandemic. It is imperative that our teachers grades K-12 understand the basics of how students learn to read and what teachers can do individually to ensure students receive research based instruction and that it is built throughout their entire educational journey. I have had teachers at DSST sign up for the CDE trainings even though we are secondary based because we intend to improve instruction for our students immediately. I support the continued CDE trainings offered that help me as a literacy coordinator get the professional development that our organization needs and not have to worry about scheduling trainings myself. The asynchronous option is definitely ideal for my teachers at all of our middle and high schools going into the huge challenges we are facing in literacy instruction for the 21-22 school year.
Keena has been a literacy instructor for eighteen years and has taught English Language Arts all grades 6-12 and Advanced Placement literature. She serves as the Senior Manager of Humanities (ELA, SS/History, and World Languages) grades 6-12 for DSST Public Schools.