In our newest blog series, we will be highlighting the incredible work of you, our educators! Each month, a new educator will share their teaching story and instructional best practices in the Newsela Educator Spotlight.
Our first feature is on Christine Scoppa, who truly stands out not only for her commitment to her students but to advanced learning with Newsela. Christine is a 21-year-experienced educator in Fairport, New York. She currently teaches a 6th and 8th grade literacy lab and co-teaches 6th grade ELA.
Christine first became a Newsela Certified Educator (NCE) in 2016 and has sinced completed advanced credentials as a Teacher Trainer and Resource Writer. Last year, she partnered on a project to showcase her work as a Better Lesson Master Teacher. This year, Christine is one of our first eight Newsela Fellows. During this yearlong Fellowship, Christine will work on a project that amplifies the mission of Newsela. We’re excited to celebrate and learn from Christine!
Why did you become a teacher?
I was inspired by incredible teachers growing up and have always loved working with children.
What drives you as an educator?
I think about what my students will be like when they're adults. Will they know how to learn from their mistakes and persist? Will they be able to read both professionally and personally to grow their knowledge and also for enjoyment? Will they be effective at communicating through their writing? The longer I teach the more focused I am on these questions. Effective members of society need to be able to work collaboratively, learn from setbacks, and develop a love of learning. I want my students to feel empowered to learn about topics that interest them and use what they've learned to make a difference in our world.
How does Newsela fit into your classroom?
Being a literacy specialist, many of the students I teach struggle with confidence in regards to reading and writing. Magic happens when students start taking ownership of their learning and figure out what strategies and systems work for them. Newsela is a key partner in making that happen. Because Newsela offers differentiated text, students discover that they can successfully comprehend text and complete a writing task. The look of confidence on their faces, the sense of accomplishment they feel, it changes everything.
How did you first learn about Newsela? What would you say to an educator that is new or just getting started with Newsela?
I discovered Newsela online when I was searching for differentiated text for a unit plan. I would encourage educators that are new to Newsela to use the Educator Center to search for topics they want to learn more about. There are quick, straightforward answers to questions. Also, they should take advantage of webinars that are offered. Teachers can learn so much from the Newsela staff and guest presenters!
Can you describe an impactful student experience that involved Newsela?
I have a student this year who significantly struggles with reading comprehension. She is very shy, and I knew from previous writing samples that she significantly struggled with writing tasks. At the beginning of the year when I mentioned we would be reading an article and then writing a paragraph about it, I saw her visibly tense. Then, she opened up the Newsela article at her lexile level. I saw the relief in her eyes as she read and highlighted key information. When she began writing her paragraph, she was smiling, and she kept smiling during the entire class period. She wrote sentence after sentence, the words just flowing out of her. At the end of class, I went over to her and told her how proud I was of her and how happy I was to see her smile as she was writing. She stood up from her desk and hugged me. Moments like these are why I became an educator and why I am so very passionate about Newsela.
Why did you become a Newsela Certified Educator? Why should other educators consider becoming an NCE?
I became a Newsela Certified Educator because I wanted to learn more about the features Newsela had to offer. I strongly suggest educators take the time to do this. Not only will they learn about all the ways they can use Newsela to help students succeed, they'll also get connected with other educators who are certified. Educators should take advantage of the training Newsela offers to continue to learn and grow. They'll be excited about the growth students will make and inspired by ideas that other certified educators share.
Outside of Newsela, what are the most relevant needs for your students right now?
Empowering students to take ownership of their reading comprehension is so important. Most students, especially at the secondary level, know what strategies they're supposed to be using, but often don't choose to use these strategies independently. When we allow students time and support to figure out for themselves what works best for them as a learner, we're setting them up for academic success in all content areas and beyond. My students also need focused, individualized writing support. My Newsela Fellowship project this year is focused on empowering students to take ownership of their writing development. My 6th grade ELA colleagues and I are allowing students time to translate and provide feedback on rubrics for various writing traits, grade anchor papers, and apply what they've learned to improve their own writing. We are developing systems that allow us to provide students with differentiated feedback that they can use to improve both current and future assignments. We are really focused on developing ways to make writing instruction meaningful for students and also manageable for teachers.
I have been working on making sure that the writing I ask students to do has relevance beyond the classroom. For instance, students have researched using Newsela Text Sets to determine if our school district should change secondary school start times and cellphone policies.
Students then presented this information to our school administrators and superintendent. Currently, I am beginning a new unit on restorative justice with my 8th graders. This is a focus in our district right now, and students will have a chance to share their ideas with policy makers based on what they've learned.
I hope that educators will check out the Newsela Learning Domain on BetterLesson. There are 100 cross-curricular learning strategies with ready-to-use materials for grades 2-12 written by Newsela Master Teachers.
Follow Christine on Twitter : @ChristineScoppa
Be sure to check out her Better Lesson Strategies and keep updates on her Fellows project.