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franklin county times

RES draws focus for excellence in teaching reading

Russellville Elementary School, this past year named an Alabama Reading Initiative Science of Reading Spotlight School – one of 12 in the state – welcomed educators from across the state to observe its thirdgrade teachers in action Jan. 30.

For thirdgrade teacher Tessa Rushing, it was “an honor to open our classrooms for other schools to visit.”

She said the achievement has come thanks to a lot of commitment from teachers and others in the school system. “We have worked so hard implementing the Science of Reading into our classrooms,” Rushing explained, “and the growth shown by our students proves these strategies are working.”

Fellow third-grade teacher Dalany Roberts said collaboration has been key – which is one reason other educators were invited to come see RES’ program in person.

“As educators, we know how essential collaborating with others is, and we all see lessons from various perspectives,” Roberts explained. “While the end game for many of us is the same, seeing something done firsthand allows immediate takeaways to be brought back to the classroom.”

Roberts said she will often be inspired by another teacher’s lesson or approach.

“Being a Spotlight school for ARI allows that collaboration to happen on a much bigger scale,” she added,” explaining it’s all part of “what makes the education world so special.”

She said it’s exciting to show other teachers what they are doing at RES so they can maybe turn around and implement it in their own classrooms. “We are all working towards a universal goal of success for our students,” she added.

RES Principal Tiffany Warhurst said the school hosted about 35 visitors representing Muscle Shoals, Crossville, DeKalb County, Opelika, Gadsden, the Alabama State Department of Education and the Alabama Reading Initiative.

“You can walk in our classrooms any day of the week and see exactly what our visitors saw – explicit and systemic instruction,” Warhurst said, adding she “couldn’t be prouder.”

Warhurst said the school was selected as a Science of Reading Spotlight school for several reasons, with one of the “most notable” being the growth shown by the students. She cited 79 percent proficiency in reading by the 2021-2022 third graders.

“Our teachers work so hard every single day, and their hard work pays off,” Warhurst added. “We know students are so much more than a score, but considering our demographics, these numbers are extremely impressive.”

Warhurst said small groups visited different classrooms, taking notes to reflect on with the group as a whole following the tours.

“They were all very impressed with the hard work going on in our school,” Warhurst said. “We even had several school systems ask to bring additional groups of their educators back to see all of the great things going on here.

“It brings tears to my eyes when I see the wonderful things going on at RES,” she added. “I tell our teachers all the time that they are the hardest working teachers in our state, and I truly believe that.”

RCS Superintendent Dr. Health Grimes expressed his enthusiasm for the ongoing recognition, efforts and results at RES.

“It was great to partner again with the Alabama Reading Initiative to showcase what we have learned in Russellville City Schools, to share our learning with others,” Grimes said. “It feels great to have other districts coming in to see Russellville – who we are and what we are about.”

RES ARI coach Melissa Greenhill said the biggest impact has been “the teachers making a difference in student’s lives each day as they work with our diverse population.

“They are an amazing group, approaching each day with a positive attitude, willing to do whatever needs to be done to help students progress in their reading abilities,” she explained.

Curriculum director Natalie Bendall said the Spotlight School recognition would not have been possible “without the hard work and dedication of our teachers, reading specialists, support staff and leaders. They truly are the ones making a difference each and every day.”

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