March 1, 2018

A Passion for Literacy

Tricia Callahan has been instilling a passion for literacy among our students for 14 years!

Each year, Tricia presents important information to our PK, K and 1st grade families that helps give parents essential tools for increasing their child’s engagement with books and literature, for strengthening phonological awareness, and for supplementing simple reading with games and activities.  Tricia works with every one of our elementary students at various stages of literacy and word work, and we see the results of her passion every day.

Tricia is fully certified as an Orton-Gillingham teacher (Orton-Gillingham is an instructional approach intended primarily for use with individuals who have difficulty with reading, spelling, and writing associated with dyslexia) and in Linguistic Remedies (a different program for children with or at risk for specific reading and writing difficulties, such as dyslexia.)

Orton Gillingham and Linguistic Remedies both use a multi-sensory approach, also known as VAKT (visual-auditory-kinesthetic- tactile) implies that students learn best when information is presented in different modalities. We believe that students learn a new concept best when it is taught using all four modalities.

Tricia’s own personal philosophy, and one that makes her such a great fit for Friends School, is that she knows that the more students are engaged in reading, the more they learn.

She brings games and fun activities to our students that are so much more engaging than the basic materials recommended in the above-mentioned programs. Rhyming games, rhythm games, Go Fish, Duck, Duck, Goose, puzzles, Wingo!, letter construction – these are all part of Tricia’s bag of tricks that she expertly shares with her students as well as with her teaching colleagues.

Tricia grew up on Long Island, NY and attended public schools. As in most schools at that time, the reading curriculum consisted of basal readers and answering comprehension questions.  As a struggling 4th grade reader, young Tricia viewed reading whole passages as a waste of time and went straight to doing her best to simply answering the questions.  As an unsuccessful writer at the State University of New York, Tricia wasn’t allowed to take a Writing Composition 100 class until she had ‘learned to write’ by taking tutoring at the university’s Writing Center.

It wasn’t until her late 20s that Tricia finally figured out that she had dyslexia.  Her father was dyslexic too.

Some of the most gifted teachers I have ever worked with have struggled in some ways as learners.  They understand the hard road and Tricia is no exception.

After completing her teacher training, Tricia became a 1st and 2nd grade teacher in the Bay area. She loved to teach science.  In the 1980s, ‘whole language’ was all the rage, yet Tricia continued to teach phonics and phonemic awareness.  She took classes to help her to become a better teacher of reading.

After moving to Boulder in 1993, Tricia became the reading specialist teacher at Bixby School where she stayed for 11 years. She moved to Friends School in 2004.

Friends literacy specialist
Tricia Callahan
At Friends, Tricia has continued to learn and evolve as our reading and literacy specialist.  She authored our Curriculum Overview on Literacy which can be found on our website. In it she writes:

“At Friends we teach children not only to read and write but also to be joyful about literacy. In each grade, children are given the essential elements needed to enable them to become readers and writers. Those elements include time, choice, response, community, and structure. In each grade there is a balance of choice and teacher directed experiences. Children learn about craft, procedures, and the conventions of reading and writing to develop their skills over time. Because of our individual approach, each child progresses at his or her own pace but is continually challenged to work to his or her potential. We work to empower the children by giving them a strong language arts foundation so that their voices may be heard – on paper, aloud, and through technology.”

In this writing, you can see the skilled guiding hand that Tricia gives to our emergent readers and writers – experiences she never had as a child. 

She truly gets it when a child doesn't get it. And she loves it when a child does get it.

Tricia’s eyes light up when she describes to me her love of teaching reading at Friends.  She loves working with different ages – and intentionally spends more time and energy with our younger readers to give them the best and strongest foundation possible. She is highly skilled at differentiating reading approaches and materials to suit each individual learner. She loves the big picture – and is also passionate about teaching what she calls the “nuts and bolts of reading”.

We are very fortunate to have Tricia on our teaching faculty.

No comments: