As a Wilson® Credentialed Trainer (W.C.T.), I have supported dozens of teachers over the years as they pursued their Wilson Reading System® (WRS) Level I or Level II Certification and persevered through the inevitable challenges this undertaking entails in the best of times.
When the 2019-2020 school year began, our seven WRS Level I candidates immediately started seeing success with their practicum students and were excited about the deeper understanding of foundational reading skills they were gaining. They soaked it all in as both learner and teacher.
As we transitioned to remote learning following COVID-19 school closures this past spring, our candidates were unsure about how they would continue instruction with their practicum students, and their students and families were unsure how it would go too. We had several virtual implementation meetings as a group to support teachers in their transition to remote instruction, applying the guidance and resources Wilson quickly provided to educators.
Just as they had approached their first in-person WRS lessons with intention, care, and purpose, our teachers similarly approached their virtual lessons. Teachers and students started with small steps, and each day grew in confidence with the progress they were making.
Throughout the months of virtual instruction, I had the privilege of observing teachers and their students as part of the certification process. When I say privilege, I truly mean this. I was amazed at the rigor of teaching and learning that was happening, and the high levels of student engagement, ownership, and discourse that were evidenced during lessons.
Five of our seven candidates earned their WRS Level I Certification this year, and the two remaining candidates are on track to complete the requirements in December with the extension Wilson has provided. Several are now pursuing WRS Level II training, and a new cohort of seven educators has started WRS Level I training this year. The enthusiasm they have is energizing.
“My WRS Level I experience has been the most challenging yet fulfilling thing I’ve done in my entire 28-year teaching career, and that was even before COVID-19 appeared on the scene,” shared elementary school reading teacher Betsy Smith.
“Even through technology glitches, pets on screen, and younger siblings interrupting lessons, we kept going. I believe the bond between me and my practicum student, as well as her realization of her own growth over the year, kept us motivated. She was so proud of herself that it alleviated all of the worry on my part. I’m extraordinarily proud and grateful for this experience.”
Sue Raulli, a primary school reading teacher, shared a similar experience.
“Transitioning to remote learning during the COVID-19 crisis certainly required a growth mindset. I was surprised by how quickly my practicum student and I developed a routine to continue our Wilson lessons. We had a few epic fails at technology (mostly me), some laughs, and lots of learning for both of us as we progressed through the Steps. The feeling of accomplishment when we finished our practicum was amazing.”
During these challenging and uncertain times, what we all crave is predictability and structure within our day. The explicit, systematic, and multisensory instruction within WRS provided comfort and familiarity to our teachers and students.
Additionally, Wilson’s guidance, suggestions, resources, and belief that we could continue our WRS Level I instruction remotely gave our district confidence to keep working with our practicum students to further their instruction and our teachers’ professional learning. Now, our newly trained teachers are applying their WRS skills in person and remotely, depending on what families have selected for their children to experience this school year.
Through our experiences, we also learned the following: communicate regularly and often; stay organized and manage materials conducive to your new setting; collaborate to problem solve around specific questions and challenges; smile and breathe!
Francine Grannell, K-12 Humanities Curriculum Coordinator for the Skaneateles Central School District in New York, is a Wilson® Credentialed Trainer, and Fundations® and Just Words® Presenter. She began her Wilson journey in 2009 as a district-wide coach in the Syracuse City School District supporting K-12 special education teachers.
Pictured: Skaneateles reading teachers and their WRS Level I practicum students maintained their steady pace remotely this spring.
(This story originally appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of The Decoder).