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Make It Work: So You've Always Loved Education…

Miriam Milstein

Have you always had a desire to teach? Five careers that allow you to pursue your passion for education out of the classroom

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

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Literacy Coach

Devorah Sasson


Years’ experience: eight years’ teaching, five years of reading intervention, three as a coach

Prerequisites: Masters + at least 5 years’ teaching experience

Average salary: $50/hour (agency rate)


What a literacy coach does

A literacy coach basically offers built-in professional development. The literacy coach can train teachers in effective literacy methods of instruction in a way that’s different from the traditional method of professional development, where teachers attend a one-day workshop and then they leave and are supposed to be able to use the teaching method on their own. A literacy coach comes in on a consistent basis, which means you have a lot of attention devoted to getting new techniques implemented in the classroom successfully over a long period of time.


How I got into this

I’d been teaching for a while — first as a first-grade teacher, then a sixth-grade teacher, and I wanted a change, so I started doing reading intervention. But after a few years there, I wanted to branch out and advance in the field. I decided to go for a doctorate in leadership — in education, where else can you go other than supervisory or administrative roles? I started to learn coaching methods and loved it.



Hitting the books

I have a bachelor’s in elementary education, a master’s in literacy education, and a doctorate in educational leadership (although that’s probably not really necessary for what I’m doing). You need a master’s, plus at least five years of teaching experience.


All in a day’s work

I work at Yeshiva Bais Hillel of Passaic, where I do a combination of workshops, meeting with teachers in teams, and one-on-one meetings with teachers. In the classroom, I may do a demo — model guided reading groups, for example — or I can watch the teacher do what I taught her and then give her feedback. When we meet, we can plan, troubleshoot, problem-solve, or speak about resource development — what books and materials they need.

I keep everybody informed. If I find a really good article, I’ll stick it in the teachers’ boxes. I try to make the atmosphere literate. I print and hand out poems to hang in the classroom, if I see someone doing a unit on butterflies, I’ll give them some books on butterflies. Throughout the year people come to me saying, “I’m looking for a good read aloud,” or, “I’m having trouble engaging the sixth-grade boys, what do you suggest?”

I work primarily with pre-1A; we want to send the kids to first grade equipped. We try to refine the curriculum to make sure that we’re hitting the same skills in all parallel classes. Even though each teacher has her own style, we want kids learning the same skills, going onto the next grade with the same skills.


Memorable moment

One teacher was very hesitant; she’d been teaching for years and whatever she did worked for her, but she implemented the guided reading groups I was trying to start anyway. At a certain point she came to me and said, “You know what, Devorah? This is really fun! I’m enjoying this, and I wasn’t expecting to!”

You can cite research till you’re blue in the face, it doesn’t do anything, but when it starts to work for them and they love it — it’s a great feeling. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 606)

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