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Perspective | A letter on LETRS from a principal who leads with positivity

Dear North Carolina educators,

When our district received word that LETRS would be mandated for all classroom teachers in pre-K through fifth grade, I anticipated a mix of emotions amidst the layers of COVID protocols that already complicated our mission as educators. As the climate in the world grew more volatile, the loudest voices were those being heard by most educators. Unfortunately, the message wasn’t positive, and, once again, public education faced another uphill battle.

But there is something to be said about longevity within the scope of a career. My journey in education began in 1989, and I’ve seen my share of mandates and programs over the years. Despite the noise of negative rhetoric, I still have a positive outlook. Fortunately, I am not the only one.

With that in mind, we began brainstorming ways to streamline processes so our teachers would not feel overwhelmed. Meetings were limited and only scheduled when necessary. We set hard time limits for our goal teams and School Improvement Team meetings so they could be scheduled within the scope of one afternoon.

If we could curtail the unnecessary stress that often comes during the school year, the valuable knowledge gained from LETRS would begin to work its magic among our teachers. Truth be told, it doesn’t take much to ignite the passion inherent in every natural-born educator. When we hear or learn something that will enable us to nurture the full potential of our students, we come alive. And that’s precisely what has happened.

The kindergarten team, who vocalized their angst about the upcoming training, are now revitalized and have spent the summer mapping out their year-long plans so that their teaching practices would reflect the scope and sequence outlined in the science of reading. They embraced decodables and found a joy ripped from them when the pandemic arrived. They, along with other grade levels, have captured their “aha” moments and revisited the “oops” that had filtered into their pedagogy. Many of our teachers have worked ahead of the timeline because they see the value in all they are learning.

A unique trait of all true educators is that they long to inspire and impact the lives of every student. The impact of the knowledge gained from this training has created a renewed hope — and, quite often, that’s all a teacher needs to keep pouring into the next group of students who collectively transform a space into a classroom.

Keep bringing excellence to our profession, and stay focused on our most valuable stakeholders: the students.


Frank Saraco

Frank Saraco

Frank Saraco is the principal of Celeste Henkel Elementary in Iredell-Statesville Schools.