Christine Fox and Annie DiBernardo are literacy specialists at Forest Park Elementary who work with students to strengthen their literacy skills. Between the two of them they support around 80 students, honing their reading comprehension skills.
Fox and DiBernardo work with students in grades K-4 in a small group setting. Their main objective is to help students understand the fundamental concepts of reading such as comprehension, fluency and vocabulary. This allows struggling students to not just read words on a page but understand and enjoy the literature.
The small group setting allows Fox and DiBernardo to create a learning environment where their students feel safe and supported. Their room is a breath of fresh air with colorful art, plush stuffed animals and a whole wall filled with books. This creates a cozy and welcoming classroom for the students to grow their skills.
During the class period students are reading around three books each day. Times that number by five days a week and 36 weeks in the school year—and the students have the opportunity to read over 500 books!
DiBernardo said her favorite part of being a reading teacher is when her students use a skill she taught them to pronounce a word or sentence. “It makes me so happy when I hear my students use a strategy from class and I love it even more when they can explain how they used the strategy to solve a tricky word.” She added, “It unlocks a whole new level of understanding and learning and really empowers them.”
Fox feels similarly, “As reading teachers our ultimate goal is comprehension and when our students can self-identify a problem they have and monitor their own reading it makes me so happy. It shows me that we are getting through to them.”
Fox and DiBernardo show their students reading can be joyful and an important avenue for learning. “The skills we teach our students are important because it allows them to continue as readers and writers without us,” Fox said.
Fox has been with South Colonie for over twenty years and this is DiBernardo’s first official year as a teacher in the district. DiBernardo is a Colonie graduate and her mother is also a literacy specialist working for the district at Veeder Elementary. This year her mother is retiring, passing the torch to her daughter who will continue to support South Colonie students.
When asked what has kept Fox here for over twenty years she said the support from other teachers and administrators. “At South Colonie we have always been very proactive in looking at new learning materials for our students. We focus on what works best and have support when we want to try something new,” she said.
Being a first year teacher, DiBernardo also feels the love. She said, “I feel so supported and welcome here. I can see why people stay in South Colonie!”
They are both travel enthusiasts. DiBernardo even works for United Airlines one night a week at their gate at Albany International Airport. Fox longs to return to France and DiBernardo’s dream destination is Cape Town, South Africa.