Westbrook, CT, special educators Rebecca Lyon, Shannon Cost, and Linnea Fitzgerald participated in Wilson’s Just Words virtual mentoring pilot program.

Virtual Mentoring

Live, interactive mentoring in Fundations® and Just Words® is coming to a screen near you!

Following a yearlong pilot program with public school educators in Connecticut and Massachusetts, Wilson Language Training® (WLT) will begin this fall offering virtual mentoring in these two multisensory structured language programs. Delivered over the course of a school year by a Wilson® Literacy Specialist, virtual mentoring is designed for educators who are new to either program, or are seeking to deepen their understanding of efficient program delivery from the comfort and convenience of their own workspace.

“I really believe we’re on the next generation of Wilson training,” shared Mark Foran, Director of Professional Learning for Virtual Implementation. “The pilot program during this academic year has been very positive. The reports that we’re getting back from the teachers is that they are feeling highly supported learning in this format.”

Beginning in the fall, Wilson will offer virtual mentoring to cohorts of up to 25 educators in Just Words and in Fundations Levels K and 1. Virtual mentoring is available to individuals from school districts that enter into a professional learning plan with WLT, called COMprehensive Plans for Sustainability and Success (COMPASS), and who have taken an in-person introductory workshop within the past five years.

Virtual mentoring includes five, 45-minute sessions scheduled with educators at critical instructional junctures throughout the year. The program also provides individualized teacher support through scheduled office hours; participation in a discussion board; Just-in-Time resources such as instructional videos presented by Wilson President Barbara Wilson and other staff specialists; and immersion in the online support communities available through the Wilson Academy. Other resources include a navigational tour of the virtual mentoring platform, a materials overview for teachers and students, tips on classroom setup and organization, and links to videos of full lessons.

Available through a COMPASS plan, the format is well suited for a variety of schools and districts, including rural districts looking for travel-free professional learning instruction, and large urban districts that would like to expand mentoring to teachers in schools that are not the district’s designated coaching site.

The Westbrook School District in Westbrook, CT, a coastal community of approximately 7,000 residents, and the Wayland School District in Wayland, MA, a town of approximately 14,000 residents west of Boston, played an instrumental role in launching the program by participating in the pilot. During the upcoming school year, Wilson will pilot virtual mentoring in Fundations Level 2.

In Wayland, one cohort of 15 teachers and an administrator participated in Fundations Level K instruction and mentoring with Literacy Specialist Amy Read, an Arizona-based Wilson® Credentialed Trainer (W.C.T), while a second cohort of 15 Wayland teachers and an administrator were supported in Fundations Level 1 by California-based Trainer and Literacy Specialist Janet Johnston.

Also as part of the pilot program, Mr. Foran, based at Wilson’s Oxford, MA campus, guided 24 Connecticut educators in Just Words, a Tier 2 intervention program for students in grades 4-12 and adults.

Westbrook administrators invited four neighboring school districts of similar size to form a cohort of 24 educators who participated in Just Words training and online mentoring. The district also launched Fundations in general education classrooms this year, and will also spearhead a cohort of 25 teachers from the coastal community and neighboring school districts in Wilson Reading System® certification.

The district has long emphasized the importance of reading instruction, although recent changes in Connecticut’s dyslexia education laws and greater advocacy from parents have also played a role in its planning processes, said Madeline Illinger, Westbrook’s Director of Special Education and Student Services.

“Our parents are asking good questions about what methodology of instruction we’re using and what our data looks like. We wanted to put all of our efforts and training into one program. We decided we would be a Wilson district.”

Linnea Fitzgerald, a special education teacher at Westbrook Middle School, said the virtual mentoring in Just Words provided her with a breadth of knowledge and insight, as well as a strong support system. The opportunity served as her introduction to explicit multisensory instruction.

“I’ve gained a stronger understanding of phonemic awareness, word structure, and English orthography. The English language can be very difficult for some students to grasp. Through this training, I have gained knowledge of strategies and skills to help students with their word study, fluency, spelling, and reading through a variety of interactive activities.”

Pictured: Westbrook School District special educators Rebecca Lyon, Shannon Cost, and Linnea Fitzgerald participated in Wilson’s virtual mentoring pilot program during the 2017-2018 school year.

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