Posts Tagged ‘Connections class’

By Jeannie Dortch.

Christy Somerville has spent the last 10 years consumed with her calling: Raising the literacy level of preschoolers so they’re better prepared for kindergarten.

calloutChristy commented, “Though certified pre-K through 12th grade as a reading specialist, I’m hyper-focused on emergent literacy, which starts at birth. Opening literature’s rich doors at this age can make life or death differences, literally. In Virginia, reading scores of third graders are used to determine how many jail cells to build.”

This startling statistic drives Christy to help as many children as she can, her part in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond.

Christy teaching

Engaging pre-K students in compositional
writing as part of Christy’s Masters’ research,
“Bringing Words Out of Pencils.”

Before coming to Richmond in 2008, Christy taught pre-K for seven years at Murch Elementary School in Washington, D.C. In 2009 she entered graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in the Masters of Education in Reading program. While taking two classes a semester, Christy worked part-time for Richmond’s Northside Reading Foundation.

As her education and experience grew, so did Christy’s responsibilities. Employed by VCU until graduation in May 2012, Christy worked as a family literacy specialist and literacy coach for ExCELL- Excellence in Children’s Early Language and Literacy. ExCELL kept Christy and other team members on the road visiting schools in Virginia Beach, Arlington and Norfolk.

“I worked three to four days a week in one of two schools either in Richmond or Virginia Beach, but in weekend workshops, I spoke to at-risk families about what they could do at home to enrich their child’s early literacy experiences. I also coached and trained teachers through videotaping, co-teaching and modeling. In sharing new research with them, teachers were able to reflect and implement what they learned with my help.” As a result of the success of this pilot program, ExCELL has plans to expand to other cities around the state.

Positive results motivate Christy. She recalled a recent home visit at 7:30 in the morning. “I shared breakfast with a very young father still dressed in his uniform, after working the night shift. He was struggling to stay awake for our meeting. But he obviously wanted to learn how literacy could make a difference for his daughter. I was inspired to see how deeply he cared for his child. This kind of experience is repeated often.”

On Sundays, Christy hosts FBC’s Connections class for newcomers. She finds that her consistent presence each week is a comfort to those seeking a new church home. During the week, Christy will be teaching kindergarten students at St. Michael’s Episcopal School beginning in September 2012. “I have missed the classroom and [having] my own students so am very excited to start my new job.”

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