The program stood out to me because of its lifespan perspective on literacy development, focus on research-based approaches that support struggling readers, and preparation it provided for me to earn dual licenses as a Literacy Specialist in the state of New York. Since receiving my degree from Teachers College, I had the opportunity to work with over one hundred schools across the greater New York City area. I have been employed at a school as a Reading Specialist serving grades K-8 and as a Program Manager for a non-profit organization’s literacy intervention program designed for Grades 1-2. I am currently employed as the Director of Literacy for an elementary school.
I often say that I couldn’t have been employed in any of my previous roles if I had not completed the Reading Specialist program at Teachers College. The content of my coursework was robust, and my experience at Teachers College was both challenging and rewarding. It prepared me for success in each of my positions thus far, and I’m confident it will continue to prepare me in the future. My favorite part about completing the Reading Specialist program at Teachers College was that I was quite lucky to meet incredibly talented, driven professionals in the program who I still maintain personal and professional relationships with. The connections I made in the program and at Teachers College in general have supported next steps in my career and deepened my connections in the field.
Before enrolling in the Reading Specialist Program at Teachers College, I worked as a fifth grade reading teacher for five years at a school that served students from a low-income background. Because my students were so far behind, I wanted more formal training to better diagnose and help my students. I was not trained comprehensively in reading, so I looked for graduate programs with research-based reading instruction. The Reading Specialist Program at Teachers College also offered to students a clinical practicum, which was the main draw for me. Completing the practicum helped me to incorporate formative assessments and diagnostic methods to really respond to a child.
I currently am the Director of the D.C. Reading Clinic, which supports the District of Columbia Public School System by training teachers in structured literacy techniques while helping struggling readers with dyslexia and reading deficits. I love what I do. Starting the clinic has been a dream for a while, and my professional goal is continue running it. Our work allows kids to unlock the alphabetic code and read, changing the trajectory for many of our students.
I taught first and second grade for five years before enrolling in the Reading Specialist Program at Teachers College. I felt that my practice was strong in supporting struggling students in math, but I still had difficulty supporting my students who struggled with literacy. Therefore, I decided I wanted to learn more about how to support students like these. Following graduation from Teachers College, I worked as a Reading Specialist and a Reading Intervention teacher at two schools. One was in New York City, and the other was in Los Angeles. I currently teach third grade at a private school in Los Angeles, where I enjoy working with young students and seeing them grow. They have such a genuine love of learning and often give me new insights into things I thought I knew very well.
Learning more about different ways to teach literacy has helped me in all my roles since graduating from Teachers College. The ability to quickly apply strategies I learned through the program when they would benefit a student has greatly improved my practice. My advice to anyone interested in enrolling in the program would be that no matter what you want to do in education, literacy is integral. Knowing more about how students learn literacy skills and how to support students who struggle with literacy has made me a better teacher, even when I have been working in positions other than as a Reading Specialist.
I was particularly drawn to the Reading Specialist program because it combined coursework in reading theory and research with hands-on practicum experiences. Since graduating from TC, I have been working at Winston Preparatory School, a school for students with learning disabilities, since 2010. I work as a Focus Teacher at the Manhattan campus, providing students with one-to-one instruction in their areas of greatest need, and I also spend time teaching teachers. In the fall of 2014, I helped start the Winston New Jersey campus in Whippany, acting as the Focus Program Director as well as a Focus teacher. I also have a private tutoring practice in Manhattan where I work with children and young adults.
There is so much I enjoy about my current work. I feel like I’m living a dream because I am able to apply all of my previous learning to what I do every day. It is an incredible feeling watching my students achieve success in a skill that was once elusive to them and seeing the confidence that begins to blossom as a result. It’s equally rewarding when I learn that teachers were able to achieve success because they applied something I taught them. The Reading Specialist Program at TC prepared me for my work because it not only provided me with a strong foundational understanding of reading research, theory, and strategies, but it also with the hands-on practice necessary to foster skills and confidence in the field. I would encourage prospective students to enroll in the Reading Specialist program if they are self-motivated, curious, and creative individuals who desire a career in this field.