This month we are spotlighting both an educator and a school district that really stand out. Michelle Skelton is a middle school reading specialist from Loudoun County, Virginia. Skelton has been an active Newsela Certified Educator who has shared more than 300 assignments with her students this year. Plus, her students go to Newsela as their top independent reading source.
Skelton is one several NCEs across Loudoun County Public Schools. This large district built a force of 90 Newsela Certified Educators in just the 2019-2020 school year alone. When the schools adopted a Newsela subscription this past summer, they were determined to help ensure successful implementation and engagement.
Dr. Michelle Picard, supervisor of secondary english and reading, has been a great champion for this work. Picard and her colleagues scheduled a series of in-person NCE Workshops to help their teachers collaborate and learn their best practices together. They also validate work done independently with the on-demand online course. To further recognize their work, all educators and coaches who completed the program received personalized certificates and pins to show off among their colleagues. Loudoun’s model is an excellent example of how to build engagement.
Let’s zoom in with a Q&A to look at the great work accomplished by Skelton and her students.
So we are going to start off with a big question, why did you become an educator?
I became a teacher so I can help my students transcend their limitations and reach their true potential.
Seeing my students realize everything they are capable of becoming, and the smile they show when they have conquered an academic or personal challenge, is so rewarding.
That’s so powerful. There are so many special moments in the classroom but sometimes it’s the simple moments like seeing a student smile that make it all worth it. Speaking of special moments, what has been a memorable moment as a result of using Newsela?
There are many memorable and impactful moments. I value the content that Newsela shares with the students, particularly the current events. Many of my students would not ordinarily watch or read current events and instead get their information from social media. I try to choose the articles which are interesting and would also make them more informed and empathetic citizens.
One of the memorable articles we read was called Tons of Plastic Food Wrappers by National Geographic. I wanted the students to be aware of the impact we as humans can have on our environment, particularly in regards to trash and pollution. Much of the information shared were things students did not realize, such as cigarette butts make up a large part of ocean pollution and that clean-ups were done in more than 120 countries.
Such a great article that really shows students the impact of our actions. As a reading specialist, how do you help students develop stronger reading skills?
One of the skills I am always reinforcing while working with my middle school students in small groups, for example, is the ability to locate the main idea and details in the leveled readers we use. Newsela allows me to check in the Binder to see if my students individually can transfer this skill to their independent reading practice outside our small group work. I can then take that information, whether the students have mastered the skill or still need support, and use it when they return to small groups.
Love how you really use the data insights to inform the next steps, both independent practice and small group work. Those moments for targeted intervention are so important for student growth. OK, so now I have to ask since your district has so many Newsela Certified Educators, why did you choose to complete this certification?
I became an NCE this past summer via the online course as I knew my district recently adopted Newsela for the upcoming school year. I wanted to make sure I had all the tools necessary to access the content that would help my students grow in their reading as well as in their knowledge of the world. I also wanted to be able to share this information with the other content teachers in my building and help them better connect their students with Newsela. As of December, there were two other NCEs in my school.
Coming up, we will feature some other districts that have really built out their NCE programs and provide some tips for building engagement across your schools. In the meantime, you can learn more about NCE and refer to your colleagues here.
Michelle Skelton teaches Reading Strategies for grades 6, 7 and 8 at Sterling Middle School in Loudoun County, Virginia. She has been teaching for about 22 years.