There are so many partners who help make Team Read a success, and Sara Baker is one of those “un-sung” heroes. Since our first meeting last spring to plan the expansion of Highline Team Read, Sara jumped in with ideas and suggestions for getting students from Mt. Rainier High School informed and excited about the reading coach positions at Midway Elementary. In the fall, she led all the implementation of the ideas, helped the teens with their applications and hiring paperwork, and assisted in the reading coach training sessions. We are so fortunate and thankful to have her “take the lead” at Mt. Rainier High School.

What is your role at the Career Center and how have you helped support Team Read?

I am the College & Career Access Specialist; my role is to manage the programming and activities that run through the center, including our College Access Partners. I also support the larger strategic plan around college and career readiness within the school at large. In respect to Team Read, that means that we supported the promotion and outreach of the reading coach opportunity—by linking it with our ELA courses, and targeting students who are already strong readers—and more importantly those that are developing readers who could gain much needed confidence by coaching and supporting younger students. We also started conversations and planning with Mrs. Massey and building leaders around how Team Read could fit into a larger picture as we work to develop a teaching academy pathway.

How do teens benefit from being involved with Team Read?
I think teens, generally, benefit from (and research supports) being a mentor to a younger students. This is a reciprocal relationship that not only builds their aspiration to succeed, but connects them back to the community and their relationship to it. Practically, our teens are gaining an additional depth to their reading skills. They’re learning skills to develop their own reading, but also that help them to better understand the mechanics of reading. For many of our teens, their involvement in the program helps them develop valuable job skills, and Team Read has the potential to be a gateway job for younger students are not typically qualified (due to their age) for many other job opportunities.

How does the program support larger efforts within Highline Public Schools?
I believe Team Read has the potential to be part of a larger teaching academy pathway; serving as a strategy toward our equity goals – by creating access for under-served students to gain volunteer/job access, maintaining a connection to community, and serving as near peer mentors. At Mt. Rainier High School, we are in a unique position to develop a meaningful K-20 teaching academy pathway. Within 0.5 miles we have an early head start (on campus), elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as a community college that has a CWU satellite site with education programs. Long term, there is potential for students to have a Team Read reading coach, serve in a leadership program in middle school (to be determined), then as 9th graders take English/Reading Essentials classes, move onto take our TA course, early childhood education course, then work for Team Read, and ultimately study education locally and do student teaching and/or be a hired teacher in our schools. That’s the dream.

Is there anything you’d like to see happen with the program as we continue our partnership with Highline?
See above. I want to see our kids serving our kids. I want to see our kids have opportunities to gain employable skills and confidence. I want to see our kids value reading, and value each other.