By Brian Coatney
Her door catches your eye immediately. A robin-egg blue background is covered in scattered clouds and the bold saying that “Cardinals Can Soar in Reading.” Third-grade reading and writing teacher Jessica Monroe wants her students to believe it before they set foot in the door.
“Hot air and balloons just clicked in my mind with reading,” Monroe says of the cluster of 30 balloons that are attached to a basket down below. The idea is “Up, Up and Away.”
Monroe has always liked children. Growing up, she was a babysitter in the community, which eventually led her to pursue a teaching degree. She landed her first teaching job at Lacy Elementary and spent four years there before transferring to Millbrooke.
Entering her classroom, you can’t help but see a picture of order. Linear, crisp décor set the tone with just enough art to make the material visually alive as well as cerebral. Brightly colored posters, neatly arranged on the walls, display definitions and examples from the curriculum.
“I like to spread things out and group posters by skill,” she says. “It’s not art for art’s sake but use of icons related to content.”
At the third grade level, Monroe says students are transitioning from learning to read to reading to learn. With writing, they learn the basics of sentence structure, parts of speech and punctuation, which calls for some artistic help.
For example, a pocket watch icon is used to exemplify the metaphor, “Time is money.” There’s a horse poster standing for the hyperbole, “I could eat a horse.” And, personification is illustrated by, “The sunflowers nodded in the wind.”
Monroe says there’s something special about teaching children who are in the middle of their elementary school career.
“Third-graders are independent but still very loving,” she says. “They care for each other and haven’t lost the love of learning yet.”
It’s not only art that helps keep that spark alive but the support of administrators, school spirit — “Cardinal Pride” — and a feeling of togetherness among the teachers.
“The leadership provides for our needs and offers great resources,” Monroe says.
The Watchdog Program consists of local dads, uncles and brothers who come in to read to students periodically.
The teacher says parents can be great supporters and motivators whether they help with classroom supplies, reading with children, or “leveling books,” which means figuring out the reading level for various books.
A 2004 graduate of Heritage Christian Academy, Monroe is giving back to the community that gave to her. She says the best part of her job is seeing the lightbulb come on when a student learns something new.
“When I see a student struggling and then get it, that feeling’s really great,” however, getting assignments handed in with “I love you” or “You’re the best reading teacher ever” scribbled on them may come in a close second.
- Find out your child’s individual reading level and their interests. This should give you a good idea of what type of books they will like reading. Read a minimum of 20 minutes each night.
- Read with your child and ask a few questions based on comprehension before, during and after they read.
- If your child needs a reading tutor, contact your child’s school or ask other parents for suggestions.
- Some schools have subscriptions to interactive websites such as RAZ Kids, Reading Eggs, Spelling City and Accelerated Reader.
- Give your child incentives for finishing a book. Some teachers use the Pizza Hut BookIt! program, which gives students a free personal pan pizza after finishing a certain number of books.