Literacy Rock Star Leads BOCES Seminar


More than 70 school and district leaders recently spent three days at Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES attending a literacy institute conducted by the internationally renowned literacy expert, Irene Fountas.

Fountas is considered a rock star in the world of literacy education, and her seminar, What Every School Leader Needs to Know About Effective Literacy Teaching and Coaching in Grades K - 8, was very well received.

“We had a great deal of positive feedback from participants,” said Jackie Levine, Coordinator of Literacy and Teacher Center Services with the Hudson River Teacher Center, who coordinated the event.

Fountas’ work with Gay Su Pinnell is viewed as the gold standard in the field of literacy instruction and staff development. The two revolutionized classroom teaching in 1996 with their systematic approach to small-group reading instruction as described in their groundbreaking text, Guided Reading. Since then, their extensive research has resulted in a framework of professional development books, products, and services built to support children's learning.

“Teachers world-wide recognize Fountas and Pinnell's understanding of classroom realities and their respect for the challenges facing teachers, so it was wonderful to have Irene Fountas here,” Levine said.

Participants of the literacy institute received extensive resources as part of their training. Additionally, the Hudson River Teacher Center is in the process of developing a literacy hub to support school districts in our region.

Carmel Central School District’s Assistant Superintendent Janet Warden, said it was “an honor” to participate in the workshop with Irene Fountas.

“We’re lucky to be able to bring someone of such high quality into the region,” Warden said.

“[Fountas] gave us some immediate turnkey documents for teachers and principals, as well as tools and expertise to reflect on our current literacy program and look at the different layers and see how we can improve,” she added.

The seminar also gave participants the opportunity share experiences. “It was great to hear from other districts about their successes and struggles,” Warden said.

Attendee Dr. Rochelle Mitlak, Director of Literacy in the Peekskill City School District, said she had much to bring back from the seminar to “meet the needs of a range of students.”

“It helped me to envision a comprehensive professional development plan within my district so that all teachers can understand the structures and the nuances of a literacy rich classroom," Mitlak said.