Sara Cox

Monaview Elementary School

 

1.) Tell us about your role as an educator. What does your typical day look like?

As a literacy specialist, no two days ever look the same- which makes this job so exciting and enjoyable! My day usually consists of various tasks centered on reading and writing. I meet with teachers during their planning to discuss resources, strategies, supports I can provide, and current student learning. I constantly assist teachers and administrators with struggling students, and meet with these students in small groups or one-on-one. I spend part of each day finding new resources and researching best practices in literacy, in order to assist and support classroom teachers.  I collaborate often with teachers and love spending as much time in classrooms as possible. On a weekly basis, I meet with our Principal, Instructional Coach, and Leadership team to review progress towards our goals. Another exciting part of my job is fostering a schoolwide culture of reading. To do this, I spend time collaborating and planning literacy nights, quarterly reading celebrations, and monthly literacy leader awards for both teachers and students. I regularly meet with our School Improvement Council (SIC) to discuss ideas with parents and community members. Although no two days are ever the same, my purpose remains consistent; support teachers, set students up for success, and foster a love of literacy!

2.)  What’s your education philosophy summed up in one sentence?

 

Every child deserves a quality education that equips them with the necessary skills to achieve their dreams, and be leaders in society.

 

3.) Why did you become an educator?

 

I have always felt that being a teacher was my calling and something that I was extremely passionate about. From the time I was a little girl, I was delivering reading lessons to my stuffed animals, and forcing my younger sister to solve math problems for hours on end. I even asked for an overhead projector for Christmas one year (who does that?)! It was because of the passionate teachers I was fortunate enough to have growing up, that I saw the value of teachers and understood the impact they could have on a child’s life.

4.) As an SCASCD Emerging Leader, how do you hope to have a greater effect on education in your community and beyond?

 

As an Emerging Leader, I want to learn from and network with other passionate educational leaders. I hope to develop partnerships with leaders from across the state and continue to advocate for teachers and students.  Through networking and developing new relationships, I hope to have a greater impact on the local community, and the state of South Carolina, as I strive to positively promote public education, and bring a favorable light to the profession.

 

5.) What types of professional development (books, DVDs, webinars, courses) have made a difference in your career?

 

I’m a big fan of Donalyn Miller and her books, Reading in the Wild and The Book Whisperer, which provide insight about creating engaging and inclusive reading communities for all children. Her books offer valuable and applicable practices that can be easily implemented in classrooms to foster a love of reading, choice in reading, and help readers develop positive reading identities. Another one of my go to literacy leaders is Jennifer Seravallo. Her book, A Teacher’s guide to Reading Conferences K-8, is centered on purposeful, responsive instruction. This book has transformed the way I confer with students to set goals, provide strategy lessons, and assess learning. The Wild Card by Hope and Wade King has also been instrumental in my teaching, and planning of family literacy nights. This book is a teacher wonderland of ideas and inspiration, with easy ways to deliver content creatively. Their book provided me with the knowledge and confidence to bring inventive and engaging learning opportunities to my classroom and school.

 

 

6.) Was there a pivotal moment when you realized your career choice in education was the correct one? Describe that time.   

 

During my first year of teaching, I was serving 4th grade students in a Title One school. One of my students was under a lot of stress, and was experiencing a less than ideal situation at home. The situation continued to get worse, and I was actually subpoenaed to testify in court. It was after court that this student came to me with tears in her eyes, and delivered me a handwritten letter with a picture she had drawn of the two of us. In her letter she thanked me for fighting for her and for believing in her when no one else did. She said she looked forward to coming to school every day because she knew she would be safe and loved while in my care. This little girl forever changed my life. It was because of her that I knew education was not just the right career choice for me, but it was my calling.

7.) If you could make one major change in education, what would it be?

 

If I could make one major change in education it would be less high stakes testing and more focus on student growth, and the development of the whole child. High stakes testing brings immense pressure to both teachers and students, and consumes an entire month of the school year, often times longer than that. High-stakes testing drives students and teachers away from learning. It narrows, distorts, weakens and impoverishes the curriculum while fostering forms of instruction that fail to engage students or support high-quality learning. I feel it is imperative for students and teachers to understand that a single test score does not define who they are. It is necessary for schools and districts to look at student growth, as well as educating the whole child. Teachers spend time every day educating students not just academically, but helping them grow socially and emotionally. And no high stakes test is ever going to measure that.

 

8.) What is your most rewarding experience as an educator?

 

For me, the most rewarding thing about being an educator is the positive impact I make in the lives of so many students and families. Being able to provide engaging and stimulating learning opportunities for students, parents and families, and for the community never gets old!  It is incredibly rewarding when students stop you in the hallway to tell you how excited they are to read the new book they got from family literacy night; or when parents stop you in the car line to ask when the next family fun night will be, because they had such a great time at the last one. These reactions and comments are what continue to fuel me as an educator, and make this profession so rewarding!

Eight Questions For SCASCD Emerging Leaders

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