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ACS welcomes literacy instructional coaches to help with early reading

ANDERSON — Karen Griner expects to be on the move frequently this fall during her workdays at Eastside Elementary School.

Griner, who has spent the past 24 years teaching in the Anderson Community Schools system, made what she called “a difficult decision” to leave the classroom and become one of six literacy instructional coaches employed by the district.

This year at Eastside Elementary, she’ll move in and out of classrooms housing students in kindergarten, first and second grades. Griner will collaborate with teachers to implement areas of emphasis from the Science of Reading, a body of research that has been organized into five main focus areas, or pillars: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

“It’s decades of research that has (been) put together to help us as educators know how students learn to read, and how they learn best,” Griner said. “It’s more about strategies that will be put into place along with the curricula that we already have or will be adopting.”

Griner’s position, along with the other five literacy coaches — one at each elementary school in the district — is being funded through a two-year grant from the Indiana Department of Education. The grant, according to IDOE officials, is part of a partnership between the state and local schools to provide coaching to teachers in research-based instruction in reading or science, technology, engineering and math subjects.

“We know the ability to read and engage in STEM content are leading indicators of student success in life after high school,” said Dr. Katie Jenner, Indiana’s secretary of education.

“Knowing that our educators are on the front lines of this important work, we must lean in and offer ... additional support and training so they can provide the very best research-based instruction to our students.”

Griner said ACS’ decision to opt into the program — which is beginning in 68 other districts around the state this year — is a timely one because teachers will be confronting a host of obstacles related to learning loss brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We absolutely have seen the delays in our classrooms, especially with our early-learners,” Griner said. “Having a literacy coach in every elementary building working with all of our K, 1 and 2 students ... is just going to be a really essential part of helping our students that are struggling.”

Literacy coaches named at elementary buildings

Anderson Community Schools this year is taking part in a program through the Indiana Department of Education that will “provide collaboration and training opportunities at no cost for those participating in this voluntary coalition,” according to a memo from Dr. Charity Flores, IDOE’s chief academic officer.

The program allows ACS to place a literacy instructional coach at each of the district’s six elementary school buildings. The coaches for this year are:

Anderson Elementary School: LeeAnn Reid

Eastside Elementary School: Karen Griner

Edgewood Elementary School: Michelle Lusher

Erskine Elementary School: Peyton Spaugh

Tenth Street Elementary School: Melissa Klabunde

Valley Grove Elementary School: Kelly Scott

This article appeared in The Herald Bulletin on August 1, 2022.