As part of the DOE’s brand-new, “Day in the Life” series, we’re highlighting unsung staff members, students, and community stakeholders who play key and invaluable roles in our schools.
For our first-ever post in this series, please welcome Annie Kim, a second-year literacy coach at P.S. 51 in the Bronx.
“One of the best ways to succeed in our goal of getting children to be able to read by the third grade is to foster a love of reading,” says Annie Kim, who for the past four years has been a literacy coach to teachers of young children in the Bronx. “You have to keep that sense of enjoyment going even when readers are struggling.”
Annie was a member of the first class of literacy coaches hired four years ago as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Universal Literacy initiative, which remains a central part of the DOE’s Equity and Excellence for All agenda. Today nearly 500 reading coaches like Annie provide guidance and model lessons for kindergarten through second-grade teachers in elementary schools across the City. Since the Universal Literacy initiative was launched, third-grade reading proficiency on State tests has significantly increased.
“It makes such a big difference when parents become involved in helping their children read. Even though my parents were running a business when I was growing up and couldn’t always go to school day events, the school community welcomed them in other ways. That was very meaningful to them. So I want to provide that same kind of experience for parents and get them involved so they can share that sense of joy in participating in their children’s learning.”
– Annie Kim, Literacy Coach, P.S. 51 in the Bronx
This is Annie’s second year coaching literacy at P.S. 51, the Bronx STEM and Arts Academy, a small elementary school of about 200 students near the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical garden. A graduate of the Bronx High School of Science with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Boston College, Annie mainly taught first grade before becoming a literacy coach.
Each morning at six, Annie leaves her home in Ossining, New York, to drive an hour to the Bronx. She meets with groups of teachers to plan lessons, leads classes for their students to model pedagogy, and debriefs afterwards to discuss what did and didn’t work, and what adjustments to make going forward. After returning home for dinner with her husband and putting her two-year-old daughter to bed, she gets back on her computer and uses Google applications to share ideas and notes with her teaching colleagues.
Early in her 16th year as a New York City school teacher, Annie offered her thoughts about the challenges and rewards of her work.
“Even though I was born in the Bronx, I didn’t learn to speak English until I went to school because my family spoke Korean at home. And I knew as soon as the first grade that I wanted to be a teacher because school was a very happy place for me. I can actually remember the names of all my teachers from elementary school and middle school: Mrs. Tucker, my third grade teacher, was very devoted to read-aloud time. After lunch, she would have the lights off and would just read books to us. That’s something I keep in mind now in trying to create a very positive environment for all children because I had such a great environment in school growing up.”
Coaching teachers vs. coaching students
“There are definitely lots of similarities. A lot of times when I’m coaching my teachers, I’ll say, ‘We are just like the kids!” Just as we are always modeling for our children what we want them to do, it’s the same way with adults in the coaching process. So this morning I encouraged one of my teachers to do some role playing by saying what she would do if she were in front of a class. I modeled a little bit and then asked her to try it out, too. That’s the same approach that we use with our children.”
Pre-K for All’s impact
“In this school, we now have two pre-k classes, and walking by their classrooms, I hear those children engaged in read-aloud and book discussions. When they move into kindergarten, they come in already excited to read and excited to listen to the teacher discuss a book. Knowing your letters and that there are bigger ideas behind them, while exposing children to quality literature and language, happens a lot in pre-k. That’s made an impact, for sure.”
Role of parents
“This morning, we had ‘Dad bring a child to school’ day, so I worked with another colleague to get packets of books to give to the fathers to take home with them. It makes such a big difference when parents become involved in helping their children read. Even though my parents were running a business when I was growing up and couldn’t always go to school day events, the school community welcomed them in other ways. That was very meaningful to them. So I want to provide that same kind of experience for parents and get them involved so they can share that sense of joy in participating in their children’s learning.”
Strategies that work
“In the past, there was much less solid research than we have now about how to effectively teach literacy to young children. So it’s no longer each of us having different ideas of what we think might work. There is a very strong foundation of proven approaches toward craft, content, and pedagogy, which includes the pillar of phonics. So by building our capacity with literacy coaches throughout the City, all teachers are receiving the same kind of support that leads them to work with their children in these more effective ways.”
“One of the great aspects of the literacy coaching model is that we are all there to support each other when we encounter difficulties but also to celebrate with each other when we have breakthroughs. And the kids pick up on how excited we get when we see a child’s light bulb go on, and that enjoyment feeds into a positive learning experience for everyone.”
On behalf of the DOE, we thank Annie Kim for giving us the opportunity to learn more about her and to see her and her colleagues in action at P.S. 51 in the Bronx. We wish everyone at P.S. 51 success throughout the school year!