Mary Hogan teacher goes back to school

MIDDLEBURY — For teachers, summertime is rarely the blissful vacation that their students look forward to all year long. They make efforts to prepare for the school year well before kids return to classrooms in August and September.
Julie Berg, who this fall will teach language arts to kindergarteners, first- and second-graders at Mary Hogan Elementary School in Middlebury, can attest to that. With the help of the $5,000 Alonzo Malouin Scholarship for Teachers’ Education, which she received through the Middlebury Rotary Club this summer, Berg traveled to Cambridge, Mass., last week to take a course that taught K-2 teachers skills around developing students’ reading abilities. Berg met with around 20 other elementary school teachers at Lesley University to discuss tools to help improve students’ comprehension, vocabulary and other skills around reading ability.
“It wasn’t just lecture,” Berg said of the course, which versed the teachers in practices of an educational system called Leveled Literacy Intervention, or LLI. “It was us looking at different kids, their reading records, watching children’s reading habits on video.”
Berg is focused on finding ways to best give students the small group attention they need to improve their reading. LLI is an educational system that “prepares teachers to provide intensive instruction to small groups of struggling readers and writers,” according to the course’s page on the Lesley University website. Berg will assume the position of academic interventionist at Mary Hogan for grades K-2 this fall, transitioning from her prior job as a fourth-grade classroom teacher. She saw the LLI course as a chance to learn about a system that will be helpful to her new duties: As an academic interventionist she will mentor small groups of students (three at a time, usually) who’ve been identified as needing extra help in developing their reading skills.
Mary Hogan teachers have used elements of the LLI system in the past, Berg said, but she wanted to learn about it in more detail in anticipation of her work as an interventionist.
“Intervention is what we call giving extra support to help bring children up to grade level,” Berg said. “It’s  providing additional, supplemental, small group and sometimes individual academic support … It’s a lot of monitoring what the kids are doing in the classroom, what they’re doing with me, making sure the parents are informed. It’s a collaboration of all three parts: classroom, me, and the home connection, too.”
She said the other teachers in the class came from all over the Northeast, and one came all the way from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“There were about 20 of us and it was really interactive, really involved,” she said. “I sat with the same two women all week and we shared ideas and talked about everyone’s different situations and what their role is in their school. The professor was highly engaging and responsive to our questions.”
Rotary District 7850, of which the Middlebury club is a member, encompasses 41 clubs in southern Québec, northern Vermont and northern New Hampshire. The district holds a competition for the $5,000 grants annually. Each club had the chance to nominate one teacher candidate for the scholarship. Berg was selected as one of three recipients of the $5,000 from the field of candidates from around the district. The funding “may be used for, but is not limited to, tuition, educational supplies (textbooks, computers, etc.), transportation costs, or institutional room and board,” according to the website.
Berg wanted to take the LLI course at Lesley for graduate credit, which raised the cost of the course, and said that the Alonzo Malouin Scholarship made it possible for her to do so. She will implement the skills she learned last week into her work at Mary Hogan during the fall, and will return to Lesley for another three days of instruction in December in order to evaluate her progress.
In order to earn graduate credit for the course Berg will have to take on some extra responsibilities when classes get started.
“I’ll select one of my groups of three that I’m working with, and then early on in the year I’ll videotape my 30-minute lesson with them,” she said. “I’ll have to write a paper. And then I have to watch and reflect on my teaching, my language and my approach with the children, and also reflect on their reading strategies. When I go back in November, I look at the growth that they’ve had and the growth that I hope I’ve had.”
At its Gala Dinner, the Middlebury Rotary Club distributed thousands of dollars of awards. The recipients were:
Alonzo Malouin Memorial Scholarship for Teachers’ Education
Julie Berg, Mary Hogan Elementary
Basic Education and Literacy Award
Addison County Readers, Hands to Honduras, Henry Sheldon Museum
Water and Sanitation Award
Addison County River Watch
Disease Prevention and Treatment Award
Middlebury Regional EMS, Eastview Dignified Dementia Program
Mental & Child Health Care Award
HOPE, Guatemala Youth Initiative
Peace and Conflict Resolution Award
Addison County Children’s Advocacy Center, Friends of Middlebury Football
Economic and Community Development Award
ACTR, Charter House, Festival on-the-Green
Major Grant Award
Memorial Sports Center and Friends of Middlebury Hockey

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