Reading Corps

Service Gives Future Teacher a Head Start

Reading Corps Tutor Chelsea SmithChelsea Smith had just started an intro to education course at Normandale Community College when she first heard about Reading Corps. Her professor had briefly mentioned it, explaining that a student had served in the past.

From the beginning, Chelsea’s interest was sparked. “I think what was most exciting was that I would have experience in a school before I even finished my teaching degree,” she says. “A lot of people don’t get that opportunity.”

After starting her service at Four Seasons A+ Elementary in St. Paul, Chelsea quickly realized that this was the perfect opportunity for a future educator. While serving, she learned how to teach each individual student based on their needs – a skill that is difficult to grasp when in a full classroom. She also made valuable connections with students, other tutors, teachers and administrators. 

Through her service, Chelsea became more confident, built valuable skills to use in her future classroom and discovered she liked being part of a larger movement working for change. “I’ve never really had that before. I truly felt like I was a part of something, working towards a greater goal.”

To those who are considering service, Chelsea believes that it is important to be confident in yourself and your abilities. It can seem daunting at first, but I promise everything falls into place once you’re in the school and meeting students. It’s all worth it.” 

After a year of service, Chelsea began her first year as a teacher at Four Seasons A+ Elementary School in September 2019. We are so proud of her!

 

Suzanne PagelService Gives Future Teacher a Head Start
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Reading Corps and Math Corps in the News

It’s always fun to be featured on KARE 11! Program manager Lizzie Morris and tutor Youa Xiong were recently highlighted in a segment that called for more reading and math tutors throughout the state. Minnesota Reading Corps and Math Corps are currently looking for about 500 more tutors in the Twin Cities metro and another 500 tutors in greater Minnesota for the 2019-20 school year. Be sure to watch the story and check out some behind-the-scenes photos below!

 

Lizzie Morris, Program Manager

Youa Xiong, Literacy tutor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to KARE 11 for helping us spread the word that Minnesota kids need reading and math tutors. If you or someone you know could give your time to help students in need, visit readingandmath.net. #BeMoreMN

Suzanne PagelReading Corps and Math Corps in the News
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Fast Forward – How Service Shaped One Alumni’s Career

Throughout the state, past AmeriCorps members continue to make a big impact. Using skills they refined during service, our alumni stand out among other applicants in terms of professionalism, communication, practical experience and more. AmeriCorps is a launching pad for leaders! 

Recently, Reading Corps alum Briana Gruenewald was recognized as one of Finance & Commerce’s Rising Young Professionals, an annual list featuring successful, young leaders in Minnesota businesses.

Upon earning a degree in journalism and marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Briana served with Minnesota Reading Corps as a literacy tutor and ThreeSixty Journalism as a VISTA member. “I joined Minnesota Reading Corps as a preschool literacy tutor right after graduating from college,” Briana said. “With a journalism degree, I knew I didn’t want to be a journalist but didn’t quite know what career move I should make next.”

As a Reading Corps tutor, Briana served PreK students at American Indian Magnet. Looking back she says her year of service was more than she could have hoped for. “Not only was I making meaningful relationships with students, but I knew I was helping grow their literacy skills because there was data to prove it.” As part of her Reading Corps service, Briana joined a corps-wide communications committee to help recruit tutors. “I truly felt like I was living the dream of getting to make a direct impact on preschoolers’ lives and ensuring many more tutors were recruited to continue the legacy.”

Through service, Briana found a passion for mission-driven work and the nonprofit sector. Today, as a senior account executive and graphic design lead with Bellmont Partners, a public relations agency based in Edina, she focuses on nonprofit clients like Second Harvest Heartland, People Incorporated, MnFIRE, Midwest Dairy and more. “Every day, I get to contribute to life-changing missions – and my AmeriCorps service prepared me for it.” 

Be sure to check out Finance & Commerce’s recent Rising Young Professionals of 2019 feature on Briana. We’re so proud she’s part of the Reading Corps family!

Photo: Sharolyn B. Hagen Photography
Suzanne PagelFast Forward – How Service Shaped One Alumni’s Career
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National Service Recognition Day: Celebrate Your Service!

 

Tuesday, April 2nd, is National Service Recognition Day. On this day, local leaders take to social media, organize special events and issue official proclamations celebrating and recognizing the incredible impact AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps members have on their community and the nation.

As AmeriCorps members, you tackle one of our country’s toughest challenges educating the leaders of tomorrow! As a show of appreciation for your service, local Minnesota leaders have planned special recognition events to celebrate your dedication to get things done for struggling students. All AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members and alum who served in the following cities are invited to attend.

 

Minneapolis

April 2nd: 1 – 3 p.m. – City Hall Rotunda, 350 S. Fifth Street

Mayor Jacob Frey and local leadership will be hosting a program to give thanks to those members and alum who made a lasting impact on the city of Minneapolis. Refreshments will be provided.

To RSVP, visit the event registration page.

 

St. Paul

April 2nd: 3 – 4:30 p.m. – Blackstack Brewing, 755 Prior Avenue North

Record your experience via Story Mobile and join Mayor Melvin Carter for special remarks during this happy hour event for members and alum who gave their time to serve the schools of St. Paul. Refreshments will be provided.

To learn more, see the event flyer and RSVP on Facebook.

 

Duluth

April 7th: 1 – 2 p.m. – Mayor’s Reception Room, City Hall, 411 West First Street

Celebrate both National Service Recognition Day and National Volunteer Week (April 7 – 13) with Mayor Emily Larson. Mayor Larson will honor those amazing contributions by members and alum who made a difference for the city of Duluth.

To register, email Cheryl Skafte at cskafte@duluthmn.gov or call 218-730-4334.

 

Did you serve outside these cities and want to find National Service Recognition Day events in your area? Email us at recruitment@servetogrow.org and we’ll get you more information!

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Reading Corps: Where I Learned How to Teach Reading

Guest Writer: Jon Gustafson, former Elementary Literacy Tutor at Highland Park Elementary in St. Paul, MN

It was 2015 and I was in the process of acquiring my K-6 elementary teaching license in Minnesota. I wanted to get experience in an elementary school as soon as possible, I just wasn’t sure how to get my foot in the door. That was until I heard about Minnesota Reading Corps.

I was assigned to Highland Park Elementary in St. Paul as a K-3 Reading Corps literacy specialist. Before the school year started, I attended the Reading Corps Institute—four days of intensive training in literacy interventions that would be my first introduction to evidence-based practices for teaching reading.

When I think back to that training, I marvel at how thousands of non-experts like myself were transformed into data-driven literacy practitioners in just one week, and that we were provided with research-based teaching skills that were not necessarily being taught in the graduate level coursework required to become a licensed teacher.

Throughout the school year I completed daily literacy interventions with 10-12 students and watched as my students experienced growth in the “Big 5” components to reading outlined by the National Reading Panel—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. I was given monthly expert coaching from a seasoned literacy expert (a retired teacher) and used data-driven decision making to adjust individual student interventions. By the end of the school year, I knew I was a part of something special—and that the experiences and knowledge I gained through the Minnesota Reading Corps were an important part of my teacher training.

Until stumbling across the now infamous September 2018 Hard Words, Why aren’t kids being taught to read published by APM Reports and reported by Emily Hanford, I did not realize that my experience was so widely shared. In the piece, Hanford notes that “in 2016, the National Council on Teacher Quality…reviewed the syllabi of teacher preparation programs across the country and found that only 39 percent of them appeared to be teaching the components of effective reading instruction.” I myself was not explicitly taught the “Big 5” literacy components, nor trained in interventions to help struggling students in those areas—but I was in Reading Corps.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that Minnesota Reading Corps was by far the most useful preparation for teaching reading that I experienced. I hope that as the discussion about teacher preparation progresses, we can acknowledge it is unacceptable that more than 60 percent of American fourth-graders are not proficient readers. Research-based answers on how to solve this problem exist, and thanks to Reading Corps there is an effective model to follow and build upon.

 

Jon Gustafson served with Reading Corps during the 2015-16 school year and currently works as a 5th grade teacher at Hennepin Middle School in Minneapolis.

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Minneapolis School Breaks “High Priority” Barrier: Students Make Great Gains with Reading Corps Pilot Program

 

Current 2018-19 Scholar Coaches and staff

 

Exceptional things are happening at Nellie Stone Johnson Community School (NSJ) in North Minneapolis. Determined to help their learners succeed, NSJ has developed a multi-faceted approach to raising student achievement, with great success. Once deemed a “High Priority” school, a category which identifies the lowest-performing schools in the state, NSJ has now been removed from that list!

With the extraordinary commitment of their community partners and stakeholders (including Minnesota Reading Corps) NSJ has made incredible gains, including doubling 3rd grade reading proficiency in the span of three years. It was just a few short years ago that we began speaking with NSJ about developing a new kind of model to help better meet the needs of their students: the Total Learning Classroom (TLC) program. Now in its 4th year, the TLC program has grown to reach eight schools in Minneapolis, St. Paul and St. Cloud.

The TLC program is unique in that our tutors—called Scholar Coaches—are embedded in K-3 classrooms and partner closely with the teacher to support classroom instruction and deliver 1:1 and small group reading interventions to students. “The 1:1 connection between the Scholar Coach and the classroom teacher enables daily conversations to happen about how students are doing,” NSJ principal Amy Luehmann said. “It makes a big difference.”

This partnership also gives the Scholar Coach the opportunity to integrate the teacher’s lessons into their tutoring sessions, which gives students an added learning boost. “The TLC model really was beneficial in that I was able to see what was happening in the classroom and connect that to the tutoring interventions,” Colleen Denice-Rossiter, a third-year Scholar Coach at NSJ, said. “I benefited so much from watching [the students’] progress and also just watching their whole attitude change.”

So far this year, over 400 students have been served by Scholar Coaches and 80% of students with six or more weeks of tutoring are achieving at or above the rate necessary to reach grade level targets by the spring. With the continued success of students at NSJ, we hope to partner with more Minnesota schools so that students across the state can achieve such incredible results!

The TLC program will be recruiting Scholar Coaches for the 2019-20 school year starting in January. To learn more about the program or how you can get involved, contact Andrew Mueller.

administratorMinneapolis School Breaks “High Priority” Barrier: Students Make Great Gains with Reading Corps Pilot Program
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Reading Corps Alum to be Honored with January Spirit of Service Award

Spirit of Service Award honoree Kristi Jo Sanders

​“It’s just simple little things you can do to help make tiny little things better for your community.”

Kristi Jo Sanders began her Reading Corps journey during the 2009-10 school year at Lincoln K-8 Choice School in Rochester. After receiving her K-12 reading license and teaching preschool for a few years, Kristi Jo had her “aha moment” when she realized all her students weren’t experiencing that same connection with books at home and in school. As she was looking to continue teaching, she found that becoming a tutor not only opened up new professional opportunities for her, but also gave her a different perspective she could use in her future career. “As a classroom teacher you make a big impact, but as a tutor…the one-on-one chance you have to work with kids allowed me to develop a relationship with kids and get to know them as readers on a different level,” Kristi Jo said.

After her service, Kristi Jo was hired on as a Reading Specialist at Jefferson Elementary School, where she continues serving students as the Internal Coach. A major proponent of community involvement, Kristi Jo also works to collect school supplies for the Running Start program, heads up the school’s backpack program, and helped build a school kitchen for children in Tanzania, Africa—a service trip she hopes to replicate soon. Always working to educate parents and families on the importance of reading at home, Kristi Jo hopes to encourage others to give back, even in small ways: “It’s your chance to make a difference and it’s a difference that’s going to follow a kid through the rest of their life.”

For your continued impact in the classroom and beyond, it’s our privilege to honor you with the Spirit of Service Award. Thank you, Kristi Jo! If you’re interested in making a difference in your community, apply to become a Reading Corps tutor at www.readingandmath.net. Be sure to apply by December 14th to start in January!

 

About the Spirit of Service Awards

Launched in 2018 to celebrate alumni and commemorate the 15th anniversary of Reading Corps and 10th anniversary of Math Corps, The Spirit of Service Awards honor individuals who continue to embody the AmeriCorps pledge as alumni. Honorees were celebrated as part of Institute in August, October and January.

Recipients during the 2018-19 program year include: Sarah Warren, Mary Borrell and Lindsay Taute, James Magee and Kristi Jo Sanders.

 

 
 

 

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Reading Corps Alum Receives October Spirit of Service Award

Spirit of Service Award honoree James Magee

“To work one on one with kids who just needed that extra push was really important to me.”

What better way to celebrate our anniversary (15 years of Reading Corps, 10 years of Math Corps) than recognizing the amazing achievements of our alumni? The Spirit of Service Award is presented to alumni in recognition of their efforts to live the AmeriCorps pledge and continue to focus on community after completing their service.

The first Spirit of Service Awards were presented at August Institute to alums Sarah Warren, Mary Borrell and Lindsay Taute. In honor of October Institute, we were proud to recognize Reading Corps alumni James Magee.

After completing his degree in classical music performance, James was drawn to the idea of becoming a teacher. While working as a paraprofessional at Royal Oaks Elementary school in Woodbury, he learned about Reading Corps and thought it might be a great pathway to becoming a teacher. James served as a Reading Corps tutor in 2009-10 and went on to earn his teaching license and complete an MA in education. After teaching kindergarten for six years, he now works as an instructional coach for South Washington County Schools.

“[Reading Corps] wasn’t a program that was looking out for itself; the kids were the primary goal the entire time,” James said. “That level of care and concern for each student was something I was able to take with me and adjust my instructional strategies moving forward.”

James cites his AmeriCorps experience as a driving force behind his desire to do meaningful work in his community and beyond. He has participated in global service by working to construct buildings and gather curriculum materials for primary students in Rwanda, and frequently volunteers locally with his children to support education. A passionate advocate for service, James says, “If you’re not willing to invest in education, you’re not willing to invest in your community’s success.”

Congratulations, James! We thank you for your service to Reading Corps and ongoing leadership in both the classroom and the community. We continue to be amazed by the incredible work our alumni do after service, and we look forward to honoring even more alumni during January Institute!


administratorReading Corps Alum Receives October Spirit of Service Award
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We’re Looking for Great People: Help Us Find Them and Earn a Free Jacket!

Can’t get enough of Reading Corps and Math Corps? Constantly telling your friends to join our dedicated community? Want to ensure more Minnesota children have the help they need to build strong skills in reading and math?

Turn your passion for our programs into perks with our referral promotion! Refer a new applicant and receive a limited edition black softshell jacket.

Here’s how it works:

1) Tell a friend about Reading Corps or Math Corps!
We’re looking for great new applicants. Know someone who is looking for a way to give back during retirement, needs experience for their teaching degree, or who is just passionate about helping children succeed? Share how service has been impactful for you and about all the great work our tutors are doing across Minnesota—they’re sure to be inspired!

2) Direct them to apply at www.readingandmath.net
New applicants can search for opportunities at schools near them by clicking “Apply Now” and navigating the dropdown menu options to find a position that suits them best.

3) Remind them to list your name on their application
When they fill out their online application, there will be a place for them to list how they heard about our programs. Make sure they list your name so we know who referred them!

4) Check your email inbox
After your candidate completes Institute, we’ll be reaching out to you to confirm your jacket size and preferred shipping address, so be sure to keep an eye on your inbox (and your Spam folder!) so you don’t miss our message.

5) Wear your jacket proudly!
Thank you for being such a great advocate for Minnesota learners and helping to spread the word about service. Wear your new jacket with pride!

And that’s it! Still have a few questions? Email us at recruitment@servetogrow.org or call 866.859.2825 and we’ll be happy to help.

Alumni, current tutors, coaches, principals and staff are eligible for this promotion. New applicants only.
 
 
 
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Reading Corps Alum Awarded Duluth’s 20 Under 40

Recently, Reading Corps alum Jodi Broadwell was recognized as one of Duluth’s 20 Under 40, an annual award honoring local leaders for their community impact and involvement.

Jodi first discovered Reading Corps when she spotted a flyer while dropping her son off at school. A single parent who not only was juggling multiple jobs and a preschool student, but also going to school herself, Jodi thought serving during the same hours her son was in school was just the solution she needed.

And it was while serving as the first preschool literacy tutor at Laura MacArthur Elementary’s Head Start program that Jodi found her passion for helping those in need. “I had never served on a committee before Reading Corps, and now I organize events all the time,” Jodi said. “that introduction into civic engagement is important.”

After Reading Corps, Jodi was inspired to get involved even more, serving on the board of directors for Community Action Duluth, the League of Women’s Voters-Duluth, Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, Inc, and Ecolibrium3. She has also been a caretaker for a Big Red Bookshelf for five years, served on the Duluth-Superior Pride Committee, and is a city commissioner for the Duluth Public Arts Commission.

“When you’re doing work in the community and making a difference, it makes for more meaningful life experiences,” Jodi said, “and sometimes it might benefit the person doing the volunteering more than the person on the receiving end.”

Serving as a Reading Corps tutor at a Head Start had a major impact on Jodi’s life, spawning a lifelong love for ensuring children and families living in impoverished conditions have the resources they need to succeed. Currently, she runs Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative, a small nonprofit that strengthens the community by connecting families who care about children. Though her projects might include parent support groups, free family activities or a new day care center, Jodi has never forgotten the importance of reading. “Everything we do [with the kids] has some sort of early literacy component, whether it’s the whiteboards, signing in each day, or reading aloud…and we’re always encouraging parents to have those conversations with their children.”

With community service being such an important part of her life, what advice would Jodi give to those looking for a way to make a change? Get involved! “I really encourage people to embrace a national AmeriCorps service because it’s a wonderful experience—and looks great on a resume too!”

An alphabet mural Jodi and her students made during her 2nd year at Laura MacArthur Elementary, which has been hanging at UMD Children’s Place for ten years!

 

 
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