Shanice is a high school senior who has worked with Team Read for five years as an after school and summer reading coach and a site assistant. As a reading coach at Team Read, Shanice developed ambitious career aspirations and the necessary life skills to achieve these goals. Her story demonstrates the clear impact that serving as a reading coach can have for teens in Seattle.
For as long as Shanice can remember, she has wanted to be a teacher. When she was an eighth grader at Beacon Hill Elementary School she learned about Team Read and immediately volunteered to tutor second and third grade students in reading. Shanice loved reading. When she was a little girl, her mother took her every week to their local library and the two of them would sit on a little blue bench in the library and read together. She knew that there were lots of students who struggled with reading and she wanted to help.
Shanice looked forward to Team Read each week. On Monday and Wednesday afternoons, rain or shine, she would walk over a mile from Mercer Middle School to Beacon Hill Elementary School.
She explains her first experience as a reading coach: “The first day of Team Read, I met my student Omaru. Omaru had a really hard time sitting still. He didn’t want to work with a tutor. He didn’t want to read, and he knocked aside books at his reading level because he called them ‘kiddie books.’ Omaru wanted to read the same books as his classmates. When he got frustrated with me, he pushed back his chair, stood up, and started to wander around the room. He refused to look at me. “
Omaru’s family spoke Somali at home. He was in the third grade, but he was reading at a first grade level. Shanice remembers Omaru being embarrassed by his reading ability and unwilling to admit that he needed help. “The more frustrated Omaru got, the more frustrated I became. I was scared that I couldn’t help Omaru, and I was afraid I couldn’t be the perfect teacher I wanted to be.” After a few sessions and some advice from her site coordinators, Shanice decided to take a different approach. When Omaru started to wander, she put the book down and followed him. She stopped telling him what to do and tried to figure out what he really liked instead. “The more we walked, the more we talked, the more I learned.”
Shanice found out that most books were really boring for Omaru. Instead, he liked to read about sharks and alligators and snakes. The yuckier and stranger an animal was, the more he liked it. So Shanice listened and started to hunt for books on reptiles. “I found great books in the Team Read collection and I also found books at the school library. If Omaru didn’t want to read a book, I offered to read it to him first. If he still didn’t want to read, I would read a page, and then let him read the same page. In Team Read, we call that echo reading. Omaru and I worked together all semester, and little by little, he read more. He read harder books. He learned more challenging vocabulary. Our conversations in English got longer too. We talked about every yucky, gross, disgusting, slimy reptile we could find. We had fun together. By the end of the year, Omaru had moved up two reading levels.”
Shanice knew Omaru was proud of his work because he sat with her longer, listened to her read, and tried to read like she did. “I helped him realize how intelligent he really is, and I proved that I could be the teacher I always wanted to be. That’s why I’ve come back to Team Read every year for the past five years, and that’s why I’m going to college next year to be a teacher.”
As a site assistant this year, Shanice is able to pass along the valuable knowledge that she learned from five years as a reading coach to others who are now in the position. Shanice explains that her experience as a reading coach and site assistant has provided her with valuable leadership and learning opportunities. “I have learned to overcome challenges and communicate with reading coaches and students who come from different backgrounds than me.” Shanice helps students to develop a routine and provides additional help to reading coaches who are having a hard time connecting with their students.
Shanice was a reading coach in Team Read’s summer reading program at Rainier Beach Library as well as serving as a teaching assistant in the Summer Staircase program for the past two years. She explains it as an “amazing and life changing opportunity for both the reading coach and students.” Shanice works closely with the classroom teacher to grade papers, lead activities, teach the class, and support students. Shanice is confident that this experience will help her to be successful as a teacher.
Shanice says that her experience with Team Read has helped her to define her goals for the future. She wants to go to college to get a degree in communications and teaching so that she can work with elementary school students. Her experience working with Team Read has helped her gain confidence and experience working with this age group and she wants to be a second or third grade teacher.
Photo: Diego and Shanice