ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER IN NORTHERN KENTUCKY
Betsy Stoeckle is in her 3rd year of teaching 1st grade at a private elementary school (K-8) in NKY. She graduated from Xavier University with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She obtained her reading endorsement from Xavier, as well, and is on track to earn her Master’s Degree in Reading and Literacy this summer. She has always had a love for teaching reading and early phonics skills. She uses a variety of methods to teach to reach each learner in a personalized way. Betsy is always looking for ways to grow and learn herself. She’s consistently trying new things, attending workshops, and collaborating with others to bring the best to her classroom.
When did you decide to become involved in education?
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to grow up and teach. I come from a family of teachers and have always loved helping prepare lessons and activities in the summertime and on weekends growing up. In high school, I had a service project opportunity that placed me in an elementary school, and I knew then that I had the potential and the skill set needed to reach young students and inspire them to become eager learners.
Why did you choose this field?
I choose this field because teachers have always inspired me to be a better version of myself. I was pushed, challenged, loved, and cared for by numerous teachers throughout my primary school years. I had a lot of solid relationships with my teachers. I also struggled with reading and literacy in elementary school and visited a reading specialist. Phonics skills did not come easy to me. I wanted to learn strategies to help reach all learners and inspire them to foster a joy and love for learning. I am humbled to have the opportunity to influence the next generations.
What do you think the challenges are around literacy?
I think multiple factors play into challenges around literacy. This may include access to resources, learning disabilities, lack of interest or motivation, issues at home, etc. Children need advocates, strategies, and resources to help them become successful readers. Unfortunately, not all students have access to resources or support from adults. The goal is for students to be and feel confident and successful. With the necessary tools and continuing education, we can help get them there.
How does your work address those challenges?
Our school has a great team of Academic Support personnel. These educators both push into classrooms and pull students into small groups. They keep our developing readers engaged and excited about learning. Our administrators also provide Professional Development experiences for educators to learn how to support these challenges better. Fortunately, my students have a lot of parent support. I motivate students by helping them create a “personal reading log” with achievable goals that are independent of each child. Students take home ‘book bags’ on Mondays, which is a combination of 3 books I have chosen on their reading level, and two books they have self-selected. I also use a lot of hands-on materials to help reach students who may need more concrete activities
What do you think is most needed to help improve literacy skills?
First and foremost, students need early exposure. I cannot express how important it is to read to and with your children at home. Establishing a routine at an early age is essential in helping to eliminate some challenges around literacy. I also believe it is necessary to give students a chunk of the day to read and exercise those phonics skills they are learning. I always try to read for a bit while my students are reading in the classroom. First graders are watching EVERYTHING I do, and if they see that I am excited about learning and reading, they will be too. I want my students to love reading and not think of it as a “chore.” Sure, there are things that I must require the students to read to make sure they have mastered the necessary skills, but I also try to give a choice whenever possible. I also think access to resources is an essential component for teachers, parents, and children. We are fortunate enough to have a lot of tools, materials, and technology at my school. I am always encouraging parents and students to use apps at home, take their child to the public library, or borrow “whisper phones” or “reading highlighter trackers” from my classroom. Keeping students engaged, eager, and interested is the most crucial element.
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