By Michelle Doherty, 2017 Arizona Educational Foundation Teacher of the Year
As a teacher, I see what happens when children do not read or have opportunities that embed literacy in their daily summer routine—the summer slide is a “REAL” problem! It takes an average of 4 to 6 weeks for children to get acclimated to school PLUS with a possible summer reading loss…several children lose 2-3 months of hard work from the school year…this adjustment is more difficult.
Valley of the Sun United Way knows what is needed and how to best approach the issue. I often find myself in conversations about this with other teachers across this country and letting them know of the work they do. I get to share stories of children, teachers, and of course my stories. Being an Arizona Native, coming from a working class family, attending only Title I schools, and being a free/reduced lunch child I can connect to the families I have the privilege to work with.
Their Summer Learning Collaborative Program has found a way to embed literacy in the various learning areas throughout the sites of these centers. We have figured out how to “hide” the literacy while making the activity fun. We have extremely creative and intentional literacy coaches who know the needs of their sites and children, and work with their instructors on “how to” hide the literacy. It is amazing to see how creative all stakeholders involved in the process can get.
I take great pride in the work I do with United Way and SchoolRise. I want to be part of a program that makes change, creates habits, and a love for learning!
When the Arizona Educational Foundation found out about the work I do during the summer they immediately asked, “Why don’t more people know about this program, or the work you are doing?” I said that I finally had a platform to share of the important work several of us are doing.
Yes, this opportunity is a second job, but it’s a job that is helping a community of learners during the summer. It’s a job where we (teachers) get to interact and support the greater Metro Phoenix area. Being named the Arizona Teacher of the Year has given me the opportunity to let others know when teachers and the community work together – we can accomplish something big!
The work we are doing is extremely important! We are helping a group of children who have “summer slide” tendencies, but with all parties involved, we are PREVENTING the summer slide.
I always knew the Valley of the Sun United Way was an incredible organization, but for the past 5 years and after my year as the 2017 Arizona Teacher of the Year I am in awe of what they do to support our community. I thank United Way for their dedication and service to our community!