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A+ training for Read to Achieve – Preparing Davie educators to help students discover their strengths and improve literacy skills

The teachers became the students as 28 Davie County educators explored using the arts to teach reading, a skill that is fundamental for success in school as well as in life.

This A+ Schools training was in preparation for Davie’s summer Read to Achieve Camp which is designed to help third graders who have not met state requirements in reading to advance to the fourth grade. The camp also includes first and second graders who demonstrated the potential of reaching grade-level proficiency in reading with extra help in the summer. This intensive four-week camp began on Monday, June 25th.

Kilby Church, Amy Spade, and Suzie Hecht share their own versions of the Three Little Pigs story.

The A+Schools of North Carolina Program combines interdisciplinary teaching and daily arts instruction, offering children opportunities to develop creative, innovative ways of thinking, learning and showing what they know.

Read to Achieve camp – an awesome experience

This is the fifth year Davie County’s highly successful Read to Achieve Camp, partially funded by the Mebane Foundation, will employ this holistic approach to reading. The camp’s attendees will actively learn through visual arts, drama, music, and creative writing, in addition to tailored instruction through Hill Center Reading sessions and small group literacy circles.

Children learn by example, so the camp’s teachers participated in seminars on storytelling using visual arts, creative movement, and songwriting, all in preparation to use the arts to promote growth in the children’s reading and comprehension ability.

Specific activities completed by the teachers included acting out the story of Henny Penny, the chicken who thought the sky was falling; analyzing a Norman Rockwell picture and explaining what was happening in the picture; and creating a personal Van Gogh of themselves. Teachers also compared and contrasted different versions of The Three Little Pigs using map concepts and performed impromptu skits associated with “Race Across North Carolina,” the theme for 3rd graders attending the camp.   

Read to Achieve Teachers Amy Chappell, Michael Errickson, Katy Wogatzke, and Rachel Morse compare and contrast different versions of The Three Little Pigs.

“Our Read to Achieve camp is based on the A+ philosophy, so it is good for the staff, particularly the new teachers, to understand what that means and where it came from,” said Jeremy Brooks, camp director. “Every year the training is different, so no matter how many times you have attended, there is always something new that can be taken from it.”

Christy Cornatzer, who serves as the Read to Achieve Camp’s curriculum coordinator added to that sentiment, saying, “It was eye-opening, particularly for the new teachers coming into camp who have never had A+ training in the past. It was exciting to see them experience A+ strategies for the first time and to see veterans from the camp brainstorm with them and plan with them to incorporate new ideas.”

“The beauty of the way A+ training is set up is that you have a breakout session with your grade level and then a little bit of time to come back together with the people you will be working with to talk about how what you’ve just learned will apply to what you are teaching while it is fresh in your mind. I was able to give the A+ trainers the themes we would be using in camp and the main texts we would be using so that they were also able to tie in some of the books our campers will be reading and some of the read-aloud stories that we would be using. Now that we’ve built this relationship with A+ they were  able to make the training individualized for our camp.” 

“Personally, I enjoyed the way the trainers showed us how to use movement to get students using all of the parts of their bodies to retell a story and how that can help them with comprehension. I think it’s powerful to have students up out of their desks and using alternative ways to be able to make those connections with a story. So often we have to say ‘read a story and number the paragraphs and you’ll find the answer,’ but some students don’t. They need something extra to help them connect the dots. It was exciting to see a powerful way to do that.”  

Engaging in classroom management techniques when using movement as an instructional strategy.

I thought it was interesting to learn how we can go back into our classrooms and use the A+ training and how integrating the different components works,” said Teresa Carter who is new to the camp this year and will be teaching 3rd-grade HillRAP. “It’s not just knowing that you can use art, it’s knowing that you have to use what they have already learned through the arts to bring out the comprehension.”  

Kerry Blackwelder, who has been teaching at Davie’s Read to Achieve Camp since the first year and will be teaching 3rd-grade HillRAP said, “The success of camp is watching these kids be successful in music and art and watching them blossom. The kids don’t realize that you sing in art, you read in art, and you comprehend in art. You sing and do phrasing, and they don’t realize they are actually reading. They come back to us with so much more confidence.”

“We could see more from our kids if we could do more of this in the regular school setting,” she added

“If we weren’t so pressured for time,” chimed in Carter.

“Some kids are art smart, or music smart, or book smart, and we don’t get to explore enough of that during a traditional school day,” Blackwelder said. “During camp, we get to see it all come together, and kids really come out of their shells.”

“I get excited for the kids who are coming because this environment helps build their confidence so much and they blossom! They discover how smart they are and what they can accomplish.”

Leigh Anne Davis, literacy teacher, added, “There is just an excitement here, like a new school year with new kids and a new curriculum, and it’s just the teaching, no paperwork.This is why I got into teaching, to work with the kids and to see the growth they can make. Here they are free to take chances and to say things they probably wouldn’t say in a larger setting. Their confidence grows, and we are able to make learning fun.”

The Davie County educators who will be teaching at this year’s Read to Achieve camp include:

  • Jeremy Brooks – Camp Director (North Davie)
  • Christy Cornatzer – Curriculum Coordinator (Cornatzer)
  • Suzie Alonso – Hill Teacher (Cornatzer)
  • Kerry Blackwelder – Hill Teacher (Cooleemee)
  • Kim Brooks – Literacy Teacher (Cornatzer)
  • Debbie Brown – Teacher Assistant (Mocksville)
  • Mary Lynn Bullins – Literacy Teacher (Cornatzer)
  • Teresa Carter – Hill Teacher (Cooleemee)
  • Amy Chappell – Art Teacher (Mocksville/Cornatzer)
  • Kilby Church – Literacy Teacher (Pinebrook)
  • Molly Connell – Literacy Teacher (William R. Davie)
  • Lori Culler – Literacy Teacher (South Davie)
  • Leigh Anne Davis – Literacy Teacher (Pinebrook)
  • Shannon Eggleston – Literacy Teacher (William R. Davie)
  • Michael Errickson – Music Teacher (Cornatzer)
  • Angelina Etter – Hill Teacher (Mocksville)
  • LaToyia Grant – Hill Teacher (Cooleemee)
  • Suzie Hecht – Hill Teacher (Mocksville)
  • Amanda Juhasz – Art Teacher (WRD/Shady Grove)
  • Jennie Kimel – Literacy Teacher (William R. Davie)
  • Esther LaRoque – Art Assistant (Central Davie)
  • Mindy Ledbetter – Art Teacher (Davie High)
  • Rachel Morse – Teacher Assistant (Cornatzer)
  • Brenda Mosko – Music Teacher (South Davie/William Ellis)
  • Erin Penley – Music Teacher (Pinebrook)
  • Alma Rosas – Hill Teacher (William R. Davie)
  • Amy Spade – Literacy Teacher (County)
  • Katy Wogatzke – Behavior Support Assistant (Cornatzer)

About the Mebane Charitable Foundation

The Mebane Charitable Foundation in Mocksville, NC supports collaborations and partnerships among educational professionals (public and private), business leaders, elected officials, and the community at large and has served as a catalyst by granting more than $10 million to educational program partners across the state.  The Foundation focuses resources to ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their highest potential in school, career, and in life.

Jeanna White
Jeanna White is a writer for the Mebane Charitable Foundation in Mocksville. Ten years as a substitute teacher for students from preschool through high school has given her a unique perspective and passion for education. White graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism.