Ukiah Unified School District

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The Power of Partnership, Innovation and Learning

School Desk: What’s your “why?”

So often, we think of retirement as marking the end of one’s career. A reward for decades of sacrifice. This is when teachers leave the classroom and pursue their dreams to travel the world, sleep late, and use the restroom anytime they like! 

Yet, some have chosen to turn right back around and join the ranks again. With diminishing enrollment into teacher preparation programs and reeling from the impacts of a pandemic, the need for highly qualified teachers to step in for direct support of our students has never been greater! Our children need support now, and having experienced and knowledgeable teachers willing to return has greatly benefited UUSD students. 

So you just gotta ask, “Why?” I asked this question of a teacher and was genuinely warmed by the response. Sherry taught for 33 years in grades K, 1, and 2 right here with Ukiah Unified School District. She saw thousands of changes funnel through the world of education, impacting her job daily, but she fell in love with seeing children learn to read. There is no greater joy than seeing a child learn to read. So when the opportunity presented itself post-retirement, she took a woeful glance at the restroom and set her alarm! She eagerly met with the site reading specialist and student success coordinator to begin training for her new position. There, she started a journey of understanding both instructional practice and systems of support. She saw an incredible system of connectivity that brought every child and teacher under the umbrella of system oversight, and she couldn’t wait to get started.

The power of seeing children become independent readers and supporting them in their journey once again bubbled in her heart. It gave her new joy for each day. She began by job sharing and working two days a week with small groups of students assigned throughout her day. Her passion for teaching reading was once again ignited! Her classroom partner, who also returned from retirement, shared her enthusiasm.

With a renewed spark of excitement and through the support of the district-created reading specialist and student success coordinator positions, she and the team:

  1. Felt fully supported.
  2. Had access to critical training.
  3. Began working interdependently with the teachers at the site.

Her work was typically with students who required a specific type of instruction and a deep understanding of the data collected. She has since become an expert (my words, not hers) in data collection and lesson delivery. She mentors other small-group instructors and has gotten to know the students as if they were her own class. 

I recently talked with some of the students at her site and asked them a little about reading. With reading instruction being a priority, knowing what the students think about reading is vital. One such student came to our site and even worked with the teacher. This student began in first grade as a non-reader. As a third grader, they are now well above benchmark and have a voracious appetite for reading! So I asked this kiddo what they liked about reading and later shared his response with a tearful teacher. He said that when we read, “Reading is like watching NetFlix. There’s a surprise every time you turn the page, and you can’t wait because something dramatic will happen!” This young man learned to read because of the wonderful support provided in the Strategic Plan for UUSD. The positions allowed pivotal adults to be placed in just the right spot to provide support for an essential skill to be taught. Supporting a child through the instructional process of learning to read is a beautiful reward, but knowing that this skill will invariably have a lifetime of impact is the definition of my “why.”