Once a reading recovery teacher, always a reading recovery teacher: Jennifer Madrid Interview conducted by Dr. Sam Bommarito
For the past four years, I’ve been blogging from a centrist point of view. I often defend constructivist-based practices currently under attack from some SOR advocates. Today’s blog provides a perfect lead-in to my upcoming presentation at LitCon. The presentation title is Reading Recovery is a Viable Balanced Approach to Reading. This interview especially speaks to the point that Reading Recovery empowers teachers and helps teachers help students.
Here is what Jennifer had to say about herself:
I was born in Van Nuys, Ca. Attended LAUSD until bussing started. My dad moved us to Valencia…a suburb of L.A. Started kinder at four. Skipped fourth grade. (Not a good decision) Graduated from William S. Hart High in 1984. Went to CSUN from 84-89. Got clear credentials. I started teaching fifth grade at Langdon Elementary in North Hills. Five years into my teaching career, my principal sent me to LACOE for R.R. training. Had no clue what I was in for. It was the best experience of my life (underline is mine- Dr. B). During this time, I worked for Teachers for a New Era with CSUN. I had many student teachers and worked at the university. Taught R.R. for six years until I left to care for my two sons. Two years later (2003) I started at Newhall School District. Very big culture shock. I was not happy with the insistence that all kids learn the same. I would get in trouble for teaching my FBB kids. I would run workshops and the fidelity I passed on was sugar-coated. Then, I got endometrial stromal sarcoma around this time. I was out of everything for two years. After I got it together, I started tutoring one girl in R.R. This led to another and so on. My dining room is a R.R. classroom. During the start of the pandemic, that’s when we really took off. Since I write ridiculous things and posted a few R.R. videos on my page, Comedy Central DMed contacted me. I thought it was a joke. They sent us 10,000$. The kids came for free for about 10 months. I am so happy to be in the place I am. I feel honored and privileged to do what I do. I’m a strict R.R. teacher. What I mean is, I go by the book. I collect data. My kids discontinue and I am absolutely elated for them.
Jennifer and I follow each other on Twitter and have exchanged ideas about teaching. I found Jennifer’s story quite compelling. She’s taught in some of the most challenging areas in Los Angeles. Over the years, she has remained steadfast in her commitment to R.R. Even cancer couldn’t stop her. Now, at an age when many choose to retire, she continues her work with children. She still follows reading recovery precepts in her home-based tutoring. She even got a $10,000 donation to help her carry out her work. Please listen to the interview and watch how she describes her current work. Listen to how she explains her use of sound boxes. Jennifer knows phonics. When she is done with her word-work activities, so do her children. She also knows about sentence production and how to teach children phonics and comprehension through sentence production. She talks about her long-term success with using recovery techniques. She knows about the long-term effects of R.R. because she’s taught long enough to have some of her former students come back as college graduates. Now let’s examine Jennifer’s interview.
Topic 1- Her background 00:45
Topic 2- Overview of what she does 03:12
Topic 3- Soundbox demo 06:20
Topic 4 Helping students to use sounds in their writing notebook, learning to create sentences 15:00
Final thoughts/Evidence of long term success 19:42
One of my favorite parts of this interview was when Jennifer showed us her “classroom” and her work on the whiteboard (06:20). I felt like I was behind the glass again! Here’s a screen capture:
Over the past few months, I’ve talked to some additional successful and talented recovery teachers. Among them was Susan Vincent, who reported on the long-term success of R.R. in her building LINK, and Jill Speering, who talked about her new book, Rubies in the Rubble, An Educator’s Transformation from Pain to Prominence, From Abuse to Absolution. One of Jill’s stories was how local politics led to the end of her district’s R.R. program. Interestingly enough, other districts snapped up some of her district’s R.R. personnel after that event because those teachers were so well-trained and knowledgeable in the teaching of reading LINK. For decades, we’ve known that good teachers are the key to successful reading programs. Because some folks seem to have forgotten that, one of the things I hope to do in the near future is to report on more stories of successful teachers and what they do. Until then:
Happy Reading and Writing
Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the centrist who uses ideas from all sides to inform his teaching
Copyright 2022 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely the view of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.
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