A blond-haired boy and Reading Recovery teacher Bonnie Simko sit side by side at a small table for their one-on-one, 30-minute lesson at G.H. Jewett School in Bucksport.
After the first-grader enthusiastically reads a familiar story about fire trucks Simko preps him for a new, more-difficult book and he eagerly jumps in.
As the boy reads, Simko keeps a running record of her observations of his reading behaviors — successes and challenges, including his ability to problem-solve during reading.
Based on her observations, Simko continually adjusts her instruction to match the boy’s learning needs. She gently questions, prompts, encourages and coaches him during the fast-paced session on the sunny spring afternoon.
The boy’s father smiles as he watches the interaction through a large one-way mirror. Mary Rosser also observes the lesson alongside the boy’s father and five RSU 25 educators.
Rosser is director of the University Training Center for Reading Recovery at the University of Maine. She champions professional development for teacher leaders and new Reading Recovery teachers around the state.
While Simko and the boy interact, Rosser and the educators share observations and write notes to review later with Simko.
“What a great storyteller you are,” Simko says to the boy.
“She set him up as the learning agent,” Rosser says to the educators, including one high school and several elementary teachers.
“Big … big … big … bigger. He broke the word apart with his eyes,” Rosser says after the youth independently figured out the word. “He said big and kept searching further.”
Similar scenarios routinely play out in Reading Recovery lessons throughout the state, where trained educators work one-on-one each school day with approximately 2,000 first-graders.
More than 32,400 students in Maine have benefited from Reading Recovery since the initiative started two decades ago in the state.
In the 1970s, New Zealand educator Marie Clay developed Reading Recovery — an early intervention, prevention initiative for first-graders experiencing difficulty reading and writing; in 1983, it became a national program in New Zealand.
During each lesson, students revisit familiar books so their reading becomes “phrased, fluent and expressive.” Children are encouraged to develop in-the-head strategies to problem-solve print difficulties while reading for meaning.
“When we read, write, speak and listen, we draw on multiple sources of information simultaneously,” Rosser says. “To a reader, words on a page have to make sense, sound right and look right,” she says.
Comprehensive, coordinated and coherent is how Rosser describes the scientific-base and design of Reading Recovery.
It’s also effective.
National data indicate within 12 to 20 weeks, about 75 percent of at-risk learners who complete Reading Recovery intervention achieve grade-level expectations.
“It makes a difference in the lives of human beings,” says Rosser. “It’s life-altering. On a daily basis we work with students who find themselves on the downside of opportunity, for a range of reasons, and through no fault of their own, they struggle with literacy learning. These are the students for whom Reading Recovery makes a life-altering difference.”
Teachers from around Maine gathered in early May at the Cole Transportation Museum in Bangor to thank Suzanne Cole and the Galen Cole Family Foundation for their long-standing financial support of training for Reading Recovery teachers and teacher leaders.
One by one, educators in attendance shared touching stories about their students’ successes. Several first-graders who have taken part in the initiative also read from favorite books.
Sidow Osman, 42, and Markaba Sheikh, 39, of Lewiston have witnessed the program’s positive power with their children.
Osman and Sheikh were born and reared in Somalia, then lived in Kenya before moving their family to the United States eight years ago.
Osman says Reading Recovery has been instrumental in helping their son, Sheikh Mohamed, 8, and daughter, Rukia Mohamed, 7, read and write English.
“Reading and writing are the most important parts of education,” Osman told Jodi Smith, a Reading Recovery teacher leader at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston.
Osman, who works an overnight shift at a plant in Auburn, described Sheikh as quiet and confident and Rukia as curious.
Sheikh, who wants to be a soccer player, told Smith reading and math are his favorite subjects at Montello. Rukia, who wants to be an actor, listed reading, recess and writing as her favorite parts of the day at the 700-student elementary school.
They both told Smith they enjoy reading at home for fun. Sheikh cited homework as another hobby and Rukia liked writing in her journal.
With all the successes resulting from Reading Recovery, and the potential for so many more, it’s not surprising Rosser says she’s never experienced a more satisfying time in her professional career.
It’s satisfying for elementary educators, too. Simko and Amanda Hammond, a K/1 looping teacher at the pre-K through grade 6 Montello Elementary School, say literacy training has improved their overall teaching knowledge and skills.
Reading Peter Johnston’s book, “Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning,” has been transformative, Simko says, adding it shifted her way of thinking and interacting with students.
“They (students) need to please themselves, not me,” Simko says.
Hammond always knew she wanted to teach. “As a child I would pretend to be a teacher to my stuffed animals at home,” she says. “I wish I could go back in time (before taking Reading Recovery training) and give those students the instruction my students today receive.”
Hammond is thrilled to play a role in helping children flourish.
“It has boosted the confidence of so many of my students. They walk away feeling successful,” she says. “They know they are readers, writers and hard workers … and the strategies they learn not only benefit them in literacy but set them up for success across content areas.”
Children are eager to learn when it’s an affirming and enjoyable experience, Rosser says.
And learning is elementary to future well-being. Being able to read is imperative for individuals and society, says Rosser.
Two-thirds of students who can’t read well by the end of their fourth-grade year will end up on welfare or in jail, according to One World Literacy Foundation.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
Educators and parents avow that Reading Recovery — an early intervention, short-term, one-on-one prevention initiative for first-graders having difficulty reading and writing — opens doors to learning and creates opportunities for children.
The thousands of children who enjoy reading and are reading well are proof.
Brian Doore, assistant research professor in the University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development, figured out a way to strengthen the life-changing initiative by analyzing Reading Recovery data within a comprehensive intervention model.
Doore and his wife, Stacy, a UMaine doctoral student in spatial engineering and a research associate at the Center for Research and Evaluation at UMaine, designed the prototype for Comprehensive Intervention Model for Maine (CIMME) — a Web-based data collection entry system for educators.
Teachers plug in a student’s data, including instructional hours, number of absences, books read, average text level gain, average writing vocabulary gain, as well as notes and comments. With CIMME, teachers are able to make up-to-the-second instructional decisions to best help the student.
The system displays children’s learning trajectories in various forms, including line charts and motion graphs.
Kit Cuddy was lead programmer on the CIMME project and Quansheng Song supervised. Cuddy, Song and CRE director Craig Mason refined and added functionality to the system so it could be offered to schools throughout Maine and in nine other states, Doore says.
Often times, says Doore, educators utilize summative assessments — think midterms and finals. These tests seek to determine whether students learned — past tense — the material.
This data collection system provides a formative assessment — in real time. “We’re focused on what they are learning,” Doore says.
Because the graphs show the child’s reading knowledge at that moment, educators can determine what instructional strategy will be most beneficial at that moment in time.
“The right question (for teachers) is, ‘What does the child need to learn and what do I need to teach next?’” Doore says.
For Doore, a former special education and regular education teacher, the objective is “for all children to make progress and be successful.”
Because teachers, teacher leaders and administrators in different locations can simultaneously view the information on their computers, they can collectively brainstorm about how best to proceed.
The data provides a detailed picture of individual literacy interventions and that becomes the catalyst for coaching conversations around how to accelerate students’ learning.
Teachers can follow a student’s long-term progression in one school system and, if a student moves, Doore says educators in the new school can immediately access the data so there’s no gap in services for the youth.
“It’s an empowering model instead of a deficit model,” says Mary Rosser, director of the University Training Center for Reading Recovery at UMaine.
“Rather than contemplating what we could have, should have and would have done, it’s an opportunity to look at where we are we now and what can we do, in the moment, to accelerate learning.”
In order to increase access to the system, Doore and Rosser have teamed up with partners from across the country to submit multiple federal grants.
Additional funding, says Doore, would allow CIMME to be available to more students and teachers across the country and support improved outcomes and accelerated learning for children through educators’ increased ability to engage in systematic, data-based, instructional decision-making.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
The Portland Press Herald reported Patricia Marshall, professor and interim associate vice president for academic affairs at Worcester State University, told Congress on Wednesday what it was like growing up in poverty in rural Maine and how federal educational programs for low-income students are necessary. Marshall participated in Upward Bound and Talent Search at the University of Maine while she was in high school. Worcester State University also carried a report.
The Associated Press, Bangor Daily News, WABI (Channel 5) and WLBZ (Channel 2) were among several news organizations to cover the University of Maine’s 211th commencement. 1,665 students graduated Saturday and more than 12,000 people attended the ceremonies.
Upward of 12,000 people attended the University of Maine’s 211th Commencement at Harold Alfond Sports Arena May 11 and heard remarks by alumnus Lawrence Bender, the producer of films that have won a total of six Academy Awards.®
This academic year, 1,665 students — 1,333 undergraduate and 332 graduate students — earned degrees from UMaine.
A 10 a.m. ceremony was held for graduates in the College of Business, Public Policy and Health; the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the College of Education and Human Development; and the Division of Lifelong Learning. Graduates in the College of Engineering and the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture were recognized at a 2:30 p.m. ceremony.
UMaine President Paul Ferguson, who presided over the ceremonies, encouraged the students to invest their talent, success and great achievements in enriching the world and improving the quality of life of those around them. The hope, he said, is that the students’ experiences and education at UMaine have inspired them to dare and to “achieve greatly.”
“You can be confident that your UMaine education represents the very best of Maine and that you, in turn, represent the very best of Maine,” Ferguson said. “It is with great pride that I remind you that UMaine is now forever a part of your identity, just as you are the legacy of the University of Maine.”
UMaine awarded an honorary degree to film producer Lawrence Bender, whose noteworthy projects such as “Inglourious Basterds,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Good Will Hunting” have been honored with 29 Academy Award® nominations, including three for Best Picture. His film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which raised unprecedented awareness about climate change, won the Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature.
In his remarks, which included a standing ovation, Bender said he would not have the life he lives today if not for his University of Maine experience, and he urged the students to find success through consistent hard work and persistence.
“How can you achieve greatness? I would say three basic things,” said Bender, who graduated from UMaine in 1979 with a degree in civil engineering. “One, you must find your passion. Two, failure must be a possibility. And three, never give up, especially when you are failing.”
“The ability to allow yourself to fail is the ability to allow yourself to go full on and to break boundaries. Many times it’s only by failing that you find the real truth. And this is not esoteric, this is basic to the heart of all entrepreneurism.”
Other Commencement speakers included students Emma Burgess Roy of Auburn, Maine, a graduating senior in international affairs, with a concentration in women’s studies; and Lindsay LaJoie of Van Buren, Maine, a graduating senior in food science and human nutrition.
LaJoie is the 2013 salutatorian. The 2013 valedictorian is Spencer Hathaway of Turner, Maine, who received two bachelor’s degrees — economics and business administration in accounting.
Also honored at Commencement, as well as at a Faculty Appreciation and Recognition Luncheon today, were four faculty members in physics, insect ecology, finance and computer science. Professor of Physics Robert Lad, director of UMaine’s Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology is the 2013 Distinguished Maine Professor, an award presented by the University of Maine Alumni Association in recognition of outstanding achievement in the university’s mission of teaching, research and public service.
Professor of Insect Ecology Francis “Frank” Drummond is the 2013 Presidential Research and Creative Achievement Award recipient. This year’s Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award recipient is Professor of Finance Richard Borgman. Professor of Computer Science George Markowsky is the recipient of the Presidential Public Service Achievement Award.
University of Maine System Board of Trustees members Samuel Collins and retired Adm. Gregory Johnson, a UMaine alumnus, delivered greetings from the board in the morning and afternoon sessions, respectively.
Alumna Samantha Lott Hale, chair of the University of Maine Alumni Association Board of Directors, welcomed the new graduates to the ranks of the more than 105,000 University of Maine alumni worldwide.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
WABI (Channel 5) covered the 20th anniversary celebration of the University of Maine’s Reading Recovery program and the continuing support of the Galen Cole Family Foundation.
A Family Tradition
When John “Jack” Baldacci Jr., graduates from the University of Maine May 11, he will be joining a long line of family members who are UMaine alums — including his mother and father, six of his aunts and uncles, and two cousins.
His father, Gov. John Baldacci, says it will be “a tremendous honor — and humbling” to see his son get his UMaine degree in May, maintaining the proud family tradition.
“The university will always be a part of me and my family,” Gov. Baldacci says.
The former two-term Maine governor and four-term U.S. Congressman received his bachelor’s degree in history from UMaine in 1986. He met his wife, Karen, at UMaine. Mrs. Baldacci received a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition from UMaine in 1983, and a master’s in elementary education in 2001.
May 11, Jack will receive a bachelor’s degree in international affairs, with a concentration in political science. He is headed to the University of Maine Law School.
Jack chose his international affairs major based on the recommendation of his roommate, Jordan Bailey, a graduate student in the program. “It was one of the best decisions I made,” Jack says.
“The University of Maine is great,” says Jack, a Dean’s List student. “I owe a lot to the faculty and staff. I’m very fortunate to have chosen to come to Maine, and the lessons I have learned here I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Jack took the advice of his parents, who encouraged him to find a field of study that interested him and learn everything he could about it.
“Challenge yourself, your professors and your fellow students,” Mrs. Baldacci told him. “Ask questions, struggle with issues, understand the who, what, where, when and how of the profession.”
The governor’s advice to his son was to stay focused on his studies, ask for help if he needed it — and have fun.
“UMaine is like a lantern,” says Gov. Baldacci. “It helps you find your way and (then) you have the responsibility to lead others.”
At UMaine, Gov. Baldacci studied a subject for which he is passionate — history.
“Where we come (from) leads a path to where we’re going,” he says of his choice of undergraduate study. “(UMaine) gave me a solid foundation and clearer thinking on difficult issues.”
UMaine was the governor’s school of choice not only as the alma mater of six of his siblings — Robert, Peter, Gerry, Rosemary, Lisa and Joseph Baldacci — but also because the university offers a “quality education” and is “affordable and represents value,” he says.
The Baldacci family has since established the Robert E. Baldacci Sr., and Rosemary K. Baldacci Memorial Scholarship Fund in honor of their parents.
Growing up in Dexter, Maine, the university was Mrs. Baldacci’s school of choice because it was “close, has incredible opportunities, experienced professors, challenging studies and a great campus.”
“UMaine has incredible faculty and curriculum that challenge you to learn,” Mrs. Baldacci says. “They engage you in necessary, real-world experiences and connections that help you succeed, from your college preparation to your future career choice.”
For Mrs. Baldacci, human nutrition — the study of food and its relationship to human health — has long been an interest. As a UMaine undergraduate, she completed a dietetic internship to become a registered dietitian and was mentored by legendary nutritionist Katherine Musgrave. For 27 years, Mrs. Baldacci has worked in the dietetic profession, in both the clinical arena, as well as community dietetics.
Mrs. Baldacci also pursued a graduate degree at UMaine after her experience as a volunteer in Jack’s kindergarten class. With her master’s degree in elementary education, Mrs. Baldacci taught kindergarten in the Bangor School System until Gov. Baldacci was elected to the Blaine House in 2003.
Today, she says, UMaine is still part of her life. Mrs. Baldacci has mentored and been a preceptor for many UMaine nutrition students. And she continues to be a guest lecturer in the community nutrition class.
“I believe it’s important to reach back, as well as lean forward — to be a mentor,” she says, adding that her advice to students is to be engaged, active learners.
“Take advantage of the opportunities UMaine has to offer,” she says. “Make connections, build relationships, and make UMaine the college of your heart always.”
Targeted News Service picked up a University of Maine report on the Reading Recovery program. Twenty years of Reading Recovery in the state, led by the University of Maine, will be celebrated May 3 at the Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor.
The Republican Journal of Belfast reported a University of Maine sophomore from Troy was one of two students to win the George J. Mitchell Peace Scholarship. Lorna Harriman will spend a semester studying in Ireland as part of the student exchange program.
The Virginian-Pilot interviewed Mary Madden, an education professor and co-director of the National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention at the University of Maine, for an article on a deadly hazing incident at Virginia State University. Madden said groups such as fraternities appear prestigious to many young college students because they seem exclusive and give students a community.